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   Chapter 23 AMERICA STEPS IN.

Kelly Miller's History of the World War for Human Rights By Kelly Miller Characters: 49844

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04

President Wilson's Famous Message to Congress-The War Resolution-April 6, 1917 Sees the United States at War-Review of the Negotiations Between Germany and America-The U-Boat Restricted Zone Announcement of Germany-Premier Lloyd George on America in the Conflict.

The hoisting of the American flag to the top of the staff as the emblem of world-wide Liberty followed the action of Congress in authorizing President Wilson to declare a state of war existed between Germany and the United States. What the conditions were which developed during the months in which Germany to all intents and purposes "laughed up her sleeve" at the United States, ignored our protests against her wanton disregard of human rights on land and sea, can no better be told than in the words of President Wilson himself in his message stating the position which the Government took.

His message to Congress will go down in history, not only as an instrument of world-wide importance, but as a classic in literature. Its effect on the Nations was greater than that of any other message issued by any one country, probably in the history of the world, and while there were critics who regarded some of President Wilson's utterances as too idealistic, time proved that his vision was greater than that of those who criticised him, and within a short time the eyes of the entire world were turned toward Washington, which became the active centre from which the campaign for world-wide democracy was waged.

The hands of Liberty stretched out to Russia, Serbia, Italy, France, Belgium, England, little Montenegro, and they were given help in the most critical periods of their careers. The President's message was presented to Congress on April 3, 1917, as follows:

"I have called the Congress into extraordinary session because there are serious, very serious, choices of policy to be made, and made immediately, which it was neither right nor constitutionally permissible that I should assume the responsibility of making.

"On the third of February last I officially laid before you the extraordinary announcement of the Imperial German Government that on and after the first day of February it was its purpose to put aside all restraints of law or of humanity and use its submarines to sink every vessel that sought to approach either the ports of Great Britain and Ireland or the western coasts of Europe or any of the ports controlled by the enemies of Germany within the Mediterranean.


"That had seemed to be the object of the German submarine warfare earlier in the war, but since April of last year the Imperial Government had somewhat restrained the commanders of its undersea craft in conformity with its promise then given to us that passenger boats should not be sunk and that due warning would be given to all other vessels which its submarines might seek to destroy when no resistance was offered or escape attempted, and care taken that their crews were given at least a fair chance to save their lives in their open boats.

"The precautions taken were meager and haphazard enough, as was proved in distressing instance after instance in the progress of the cruel and unmanly business; but a certain degree of restraint was observed.

"The new policy has swept every restriction aside. Vessels of every kind, whatever their flag, their character, their cargo, their destination, their errand, have been ruthlessly sent to the bottom without warning and without thought of help or mercy for those on board, the vessels of friendly neutrals along with those of belligerents.

"Even hospital ships and ships carrying relief to the sorely bereaved and stricken people of Belgium, though the latter were provided with safe-conduct through the prescribed areas by the German Government itself and were distinguished by unmistakable marks of identity, have been sunk with the same reckless lack of compassion or of principle.

"I was for a little while unable to believe that such things would in fact be done by any government that had hitherto subscribed to the humane practices of civilized nations. International law had its origin in the attempt to set up some law which would be respected and observed upon the seas, where no nation had the right of domination and where lay the free highways of the world.

"By painful stage after stage has that law been built up, with meager enough results, indeed, after all was accomplished that could be accomplished, but always with a clear view, at least, of what the heart and conscience of mankind demanded.


"This minimum of right the German Government has swept aside under the plea of retaliation and necessity and because it had no weapons which it could use at sea except those which it is impossible to employ as it is employing them without throwing to the winds all scruples of humanity or of respect for the understandings that were supposed to underlie the intercourse of the world.

"I am not now thinking of the loss of property involved, immense and serious as this is, but only of the wanton and wholesale destruction of the lives of non-combatants, men, women and children, engaged in pursuits which have always, even in the darkest periods of modern history, been deemed innocent and legitimate. Property can be paid for; the lives of peaceful and innocent people cannot be.

"The present German submarine warfare against commerce is a warfare against mankind. It is a war against all nations. American ships have been sunk, American lives taken, in ways which it has stirred us very deeply to learn of, but the ships and people of other neutral and friendly nations have been sunk and overwhelmed in the waters in the same way. There has been no discrimination. The challenge is to all mankind. Each nation must decide for itself how it will meet it.

"The choice we make for ourselves must be made with a moderation of counsel and a temperateness of judgment befitting our character and our motives as a nation. We must put excited feeling away. Our motive will not be revenge or the victorious assertion of the physical might of the nation, but only the vindication of human right, of which we are only a single champion.


"When I addressed the Congress on the twenty-sixth of February last I thought it would suffice to assert our neutral rights with arms, our right to use the seas against unlawful interference, our right to keep our people safe against unlawful violence. But armed neutrality, it now appears, is impracticable.

"Because submarines are in effect outlaws when used as the German submarines have been used against merchant shipping, it is impossible to defend ships against their attacks as the law of nations has assumed that merchantmen would defend themselves against privateers or cruisers, visible craft giving chase upon the open sea. It is common prudence in such circumstances, grim necessity, indeed, to endeavor to destroy them before they have shown their own intention. They must be dealt with upon sight, if dealt with at all.

"The German Government denies the right of neutrals to use arms at all within the areas of the sea which it has proscribed, even in the defense of rights which no modern publicist has ever questioned their right to defend. The intimation is conveyed that the armed guards which we have placed on our merchant ships will be treated as beyond the pale of law and subject to be dealt with as pirates would be.

"Armed neutrality is ineffectual enough at best; in such circumstances and in the face of such pretensions it is worse than ineffectual; it is likely once to produce what it was meant to prevent; it is virtually certain to draw us into the war without either the rights or the effectiveness of belligerents.

"There is one choice we cannot make, we are incapable of making; we will not choose the path of submission and suffer the most sacred rights of our nation and our people to be ignored or violated. The wrongs against which we now array ourselves are not common wrongs; they cut to the very roots of human life.


"With a profound sense of the solemn and even tragical character of the step I am taking and of the grave responsibilities which it involves, but in unhesitating obedience to what I deem my constitutional duty, I advise that the Congress declare the recent course of the Imperial German Government to be in fact nothing less than war against the Government and people of the United States; that it formally accept the status of belligerent which has thus been thrust upon it and that it take immediate steps not only to put the country in a more thorough state of defense, but also to exert all its power and employ all its resources to bring the Government of the German Empire to terms and end the war.

"What this will involve is clear. It will involve the utmost practicable co-operation in counsel and action with the Governments now at war with Germany, and as incident to that, the extension to those Governments of the most liberal financial credits, in order that our resources may, so far as possible, be added to theirs. It will involve the organization and mobilization of all the material resources of the country to supply the material of war and serve the incidental needs of the nation in the most abundant and yet the most economical and efficient way possible.

"It will involve the immediate full equipment of the navy in all respects, but particularly in supplying it with the best means of dealing with the enemy's submarines. It will involve the immediate addition to the armed forces of the United States already provided for by law in case of war at least 500,000 men, who should, in my opinion, be chosen upon the principle of universal liability to service, and also the authorization of subsequent additional increments of equal force so soon as they may be needed and can be handled in training.


"It will involve, also, of course, the granting of adequate credits to the Government, sustained, I hope, so far as they can equitably be sustained by the present generation, by well-conceived taxation. I say sustained so far as may be equitably by taxation because it seems to me that it would be most unwise to base the credits which will now be necessary entirely on money borrowed. It is our duty, I most respectfully urge, to protect our people so far as we may against the very serious hardships and evils which would be likely to arise out of the inflation which would be produced by vast loans.

"In carrying out the measures by which these things are to be accomplished we should keep constantly in mind the wisdom of interfering as little as possible in our own preparation and in the equipment of our own military forces with the duty-for it will be a very practical duty-of supplying the nations already at war with Germany with the materials which they can obtain only from us by our assistance. They are in the field and we should help them in every way to be effective there.

"I shall take the liberty of suggesting, through the several executive departments of the Government, for the consideration of your committees measures for the accomplishment of the several objects I have mentioned. I hope that it will be your pleasure to deal with them as having been framed after very careful thought by the branch of the Government upon which the responsibility of conducting the war and safeguarding the nation will most directly fall.

"While we do these things-these deeply momentous things-let us be very clear, and make very clear to all the world, what our motives and our objects are. My own thought has not been driven from its habitual and normal course by the unhappy events of the last two months, and I do not believe that the thought of the nation has been altered or clouded by them.


"I have exactly the same things in mind now that I had in mind when I addressed the Senate on the twenty-second of January last; the same that I had in mind when I addressed the Congress on the third of February and on the twenty-sixth of February. Our object now, as then, is to vindicate the principles of peace and justice in the life of the world against selfish and autocratic power and to set up among the really free and self-governed peoples of the world such a concert of purpose and action as will henceforth insure the observance of those principles.

"Neutrality is no longer feasible or desirable where the peace of the world is involved and the freedom of its peoples and the menace to that peace and freedom lies in the existence of autocratic governments backed by organized force which is controlled wholly by their will, not by the will of their people. We have seen the last of neutrality in such circumstances.

"We are at the beginning of an age in which it will be insisted that the same standards of conduct and of responsibility for wrongdoing shall be observed among nations and their Governments that are observed among the individual citizens of civilized States.

"We have no quarrel with the German people. We have no feeling toward them but one of sympathy and friendship. It was not upon their impulse that their Government acted in entering this war. It was not with their previous knowledge or approval.

"It was a war determined upon as wars used to be determined upon in the old, unhappy days when peoples were nowhere consulted by their rulers and wars were provoked and waged in the interest of dynasties or of little groups of ambitious men who were accustomed to use their fellow-men as pawns and tools.

"Self-governed nations do not fill their neighbor States with spies, or set the course of intrigue to bring about some critical posture of affairs which will give them an opportunity to strike and make conquest. Such designs can be successfully worked out only under cover and where no one has the right to ask questions.


"Cunningly contrived plans of deception or aggression carried it may be from generation to generation, can be worked out and kept from the light only within the privacy of courts or behind the carefully guarded confidences of a narrow, privileged class. They are happily impossible where public opinion commands and insists upon full information concerning all the nation's affairs.

"A steadfast concert for peace can never be maintained except by a partnership of democratic nations. No autocratic Government could be trusted to keep faith within it or observe its covenants. It must be a league of honor, a partnership of opinion. Intrigue would eat its vitals away; the plotting of inner circles who could plan what they would and render account to no one would be a corruption seated at its very heart. Only free peoples can hold their purpose and their honor steady to a common end and prefer the interests of mankind to any narrow interest of their own.

"Does not every American feel that assurance has been added to our hope for the future peace of the world by the wonderful and heartening things that have been happening within the last few weeks in Russia? Russia was known by those who know it best to have been always in fact democratic at heart in all the vital habits of her thought, in all the intimate relationships of her people that spoke their natural instinct, their habitual attitude toward life.


"The autocracy that crowned the summit of her political structure, long as it had stood and terrible as was the reality of its power, was not, in fact, Russian in origin, character or purpose; and now it has been shaken off and the great, generous Russian people have been added in all their native majesty and might to the forces that are fighting for freedom in the world, for justice and for peace. Here is a fit partner for a league of honor.

"One of the things that have served to convince us that the Prussian autocracy was not and could never be our friend, is that from the very outset of the present war it has filled our unsuspecting communities and even our offices of Government with spies and set criminal intrigues everywhere afoot against our national unity and counsel, our peace within and without our industries and our commerce.

"Indeed, it is now evident that its spies were here even before the war began; and it is unhappily not a matter of conjecture, but a fact proved in our courts of justice, that the intrigues which have more than once come perilously near to disturbing the peace and dislocating the industries of the country have been carried on at the instigation, with the support, and even under the personal direction of official agents of the Imperial Government accredited to the Government of the United States.

"Even in checking these things and trying to extirpate them, we have sought to put the most generous interpretation possible upon them because we knew that their source lay, not in any hostile feeling or purpose of the German people toward us (who were, no doubt, as ignorant of them as we ourselves were), but only in the selfish designs of a Government that did what it pleased and told its people nothing. But they have played their part in serving to convince us at last that that Government entertains no real friendship for us and means to act against our peace and security at its convenience. That it means to stir up enemies against us at our very doors the intercepted note to the German Minister at Mexico City is eloquent evidence.

"We are accepting this challenge of hostile purpose because we know that in such a Government, following such methods, we can never have a friend; and that in the presence of its organized power, always lying in wait to accomplish we know not what purpose, there can be no assured security of the democratic Governments of the world.


"We are now about to accept gage of battle with this natural foe to liberty, and shall, if necessary, spend the whole force of the nation to check and nullify its pretensions and its power. We are glad, now that we see the facts with no veil of false pretense about them, to fight thus for the ultimate peace of the world and for the liberation of its peoples, the German peoples included; for the rights of nations great and small and the privilege of men everywhere to choose their way of life and of obedience. The world must be made safe for democracy. Its peace must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty.

"We have no selfish ends to serve. We desire no conquest, no dominion. We seek no indemnities for ourselves, no material compensation for the sacrifices we shall freely make. We are but one of the champions of the rights of mankind. We shall be satisfied when those rights have been as secure as the faith and the freedom of the nations can make them.

"Just because we fight without rancour and without selfish object, seeking nothing for ourselves but what we shall wish to share with all free people, we shall, I feel confident, conduct our operations as belligerents without passion and ourselves observe with proud punctilio the principles of right and of fair play we profess to be fighting for.


"I have said nothing of the Governments allied with the Imperial Government of Germany because they have not made war upon us or challenged us to defend our right and our honor. The Austro-Hungarian Government has, indeed, avowed its unqualified indorsement and acceptance of the reckless and lawless submarine warfare adopted now without disguise by the Imperial German Government, and it has, therefore, not been possible for this Government to receive Count Tarnowski, the Ambassador recently accredited to this Government by the Imperial and Royal Government of Austria-Hungary; but that Government has not actually engaged in warfare against citizens of the United States on the seas, and I take the liberty, for the present at least, of postponing a discussion of our relations with the authorities at Vienna. We enter this war only where we are clearly forced into it because there are no other means of defending our rights.

"It will be all the easier for us to conduct ourselves as belligerents in a high spirit of right and fairness because we act without animus, not in enmity toward a people or with the desire to bring any injury or disadvantage upon them, but only in armed opposition to an irresponsible Government which has thrown aside all considerations of humanity and of right and is running amuck.

"We are, let me say again, the sincere friends of the German people, and shall desire nothing so much as the early re-establishment of intimate relations of mutual advantage between us, however hard it may be for them, for the time being, to believe that this is spoken from our hearts.

"We have borne with their present Government through all these bitter months because of that friendship, exercising a patience and forbearance which would otherwise have been impossible. We shall, happily, still have an opportunity to prove that friendship in our daily attitude and actions toward the millions of men and women of German birth and native sympathy who live among us and share our life, and we shall be proud to prove it toward all who are in fact loyal to their neighbors and to the Government in the hour of test.


"They are, most of them, as true and loyal Americans as if they had never known any other fealty or allegiance. They will be prompt to stand with us in rebuking and restraining the few who may be of a different mind and purpose.

"If there should be disloyalty it will be dealt with with a firm hand of stern repression; but if it lifts its head at all it will lift it only here and there, and without countenance except from a lawless and malignant few.

"It is a distressing and oppressive duty, gentlemen of the Congress, which I have performed in thus addressing you. There are, it may be, many months of fiery trial and sacrifice ahead of us. It is a fearful thing to lead this great, peaceful people into war-into the most terrible and disastrous of all wars, civilization itself seeming to be in the balance.

"But the right is more precious than peace, and we shall fight for the things which we have always carried nearest our hearts-for democracy, for the right of those who submit to authority to have a voice in their own government, for the rights and liberties of small nations, for a universal dominion of right by such a concert of free peoples as shall bring peace and safety to all nations and make the world itself at last free.

"To such a task we can dedicate our lives and our fortunes, everything that we are and everything that we have, with the pride of those who know that the day has come when America is privileged to spend her blood and her might for the principles that gave her birth and happiness and the peace which she has treasured. God helping her, she can do no other."

While all the world knew that an actual state of war had existed between the two countries for months, the resolution declaring war as adopted by Congress on the plea of President Wilson and signed by the President shortly after 1 o'clock on the afternoon of April 6, 1917-Good Friday-was as follows:

"Whereas, The Imperial German Government has committed repeated acts of war against the government and the people of the United States of America; therefore, be it


"Resolved, By the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, that the state of war between the United States and the Imperial German Government which has thus been thrust upon the United States is hereby formally declared; and that the President be, and he is hereby authorized and directed to employ the entire naval and military forces of the United States and the resources of the government to carry on war against the Imperial German Government; and to bring the conflict to a successful termination all of the resources of the country are hereby pledged by the Congress of the United States."

Immediately President Wilson issued a proclamation in which he called upon the people of the country to co-operate and give their support, pointing out the necessity for doing things other than putting men upon the firing line. And in his brief proclamation he outlined the entire comprehensive plan which, within a few months, was well under way.

The placing of the navy upon a war footing; the creating and equipping of an adequate army; the supplying of ships; creating of loans; the financing of the Allies; the conservation of food products; the development of food and mater

ial resources; the providing of munitions and supplies for the fighting forces abroad-all of these things were pointed to as necessary in the President's proclamation.

Thus America, which had endeavored to remain neutral during months when Germany was arrogant and insulting, became aligned with the Allies in the struggle which for nearly three years had been waged in Europe.


The negotiations between this country and Germany over the question of submarine warfare as affecting the lives of non-combatants and the rights of neutrals on the high seas in time of war had been carried on for two years. They had their origin on February 10, 1915, when, following the German announcement of February 4 that "the waters around Great Britain and Ireland, including the whole English Channel, are declared a war zone on and after February 18, 1915," William J. Bryan, then Secretary of State, sent the "strict accountability" note to Berlin.

Through successive stages the exchange of diplomatic papers continued, with growing feeling on both sides, because of the acts of German submarines, until the torpedoing of the cross-Channel steamer Sussex, on March 24, 1916, when the lives of twenty-five American citizens were imperiled and several suffered bodily injuries or shock. This attack resulted in the "Sussex note," or so-called "ultimatum" to Germany.

The Sussex note, signed by Secretary Lansing, and sent to Germany April 19, 1916, concluded with the following declaration:

"Unless the Imperial Government should now immediately declare and effect an abandonment of its present methods of submarine warfare against passenger and freight-carrying vessels, the Government of the United States can have no choice but to sever diplomatic relations with the German Empire altogether."


The first American note to the Imperial Government, of February 10, 1915, disputed the right of Germany to declare such a war zone as it had announced the week before, and contended for the international procedure of "visit and search" before attack on or capture of a neutral vessel. It embodied this phrase:

"If such a deplorable situation should arise (wanton destruction of an American ship) the Imperial German Government can readily appreciate that the Government of the United States would be constrained to hold the Imperial German Government to a strict accountability for such acts of their naval authorities and to take any steps it might be necessary to take to safeguard American lives and property and to secure to Americans the full enjoyment of their acknowledged rights on the high seas."

In reply the German Government sent a note under date of February 16, 1915, setting forth that the war zone proclamation was in reprisal for the "blockade" of Great Britain and that if "at the eleventh hour" the United States should prevail upon Germany's enemies to abandon their methods of maritime warfare, Germany would modify its order. It charged misuse of neutral flags and the arming of merchant ships by Great Britain.

On February 20, in an identic note to Germany and Great Britain, the American Government suggested that both Powers cease their illegal activities. Such an agreement this Government proposed as a "modus vivendi" giving opportunity for further discussion of the points in controversy. Berlin accepted this note as "new evidence of the friendly feelings of the American Government," but reserved a "definite statement" of the position of the Imperial Government until it learned "what obligations the British Government are on their part willing to assume."

Subsequently, on March 28, the British steamship Falaba was sunk, with the loss of 163 lives, including one American. On April 28 the American steamship Cushing was attacked by an aeroplane, and on May 1 the American tanker Gulflight was attacked by a submarine and three United States citizens were lost.

On May 1, also, the German Embassy at Washington caused to be inserted in many of the leading American newspapers the now famous advertisement warning Americans and others from taking passage on the Cunard liner Lusitania, intimating that it would be attacked. This was the day the Lusitania sailed on her ill-fated voyage. A number of the prominent passengers received personal notes when they reached the pier, advising them not to go, but most of them scouted the thought of danger.


After the sinking of the Lusitania, on May 7, off Fastnet, Ireland, with the loss of more than 1100 persons, among them 115 Americans, the submarine issue assumed a large and gravely important place in the realm of diplomacy.

The accumulation of cases affecting Americans was taken up in the first "Lusitania note" to Germany, which was dispatched May 15, 1915. It characterized the attacks on the Falaba, Cushing, Gulflight and Lusitania as "a series of events which the United States has observed with growing concern, distress and amazement." It pointed to Germany's hitherto expressed "humane and enlightened attitude" in matters of international right, and expressed the hope that submarine commanders engaged in torpedoing peaceful ships without warning were in such practice operating without the sanction of their Government. The note closed with these words:

"The Imperial German Government will not expect the Government of the United States to omit any word or act necessary to the performance of its sacred duty of maintaining the rights of the United States and its citizens and of safeguarding their free exercise and enjoyment."

On May 28, 1915, Germany replied with a note which covered a wide range of argument and was in every respect unsatisfactory. It alleged that the Lusitania had masked guns aboard; that she in effect was a British auxiliary cruiser; that she carried munitions of war; that her owning company, aware of the damages she risked in the submarine war zone, was in reality responsible for the loss of American lives, and referred to the fact that the British Admiralty had offered large rewards to ship captains who rammed or destroyed submarines.


The note met none of the contentions of the United States so far as the Lusitania and Falaba incidents were concerned, although a supplementary note did acknowledge that Germany was wrong in the attacks on the Cushing and the Gulflight, expressed regret for these two cases and promised to pay damages. While the American reply to the note was being framed dissension in the Cabinet resulted in the resignation of Secretary Bryan, who contended for a policy of warning Americans off belligerent ships. He resigned because he thought he could not sign the next note to Germany, which he feared would lead the United States into war.

Meanwhile several sensational incidents cropped up in connection with the negotiations, chief of which was the sending of a message to the Berlin Foreign Office by Doctor Dumba, the Austrian Ambassador, afterward recalled at the request of President Wilson, which was represented as stating substantially that Mr. Bryan had intimated to the Ambassador that the vigorous tone of the American notes should not be regarded in Berlin as too warlike.

Secretary Lansing took office as Mr. Bryan's successor, and his reply to the German note took issue with every contention Germany had set up in the Falaba and Lusitania cases, denied flatly the contention that the Lusitania was armed or was to be treated as other than a peaceful merchant ship.

The note averred that the declaration of a submarine war zone could not abbreviate the rights of Americans on lawful journeys, and added: "The Government of the United States therefore very earnestly and solemnly renews the representations of its note transmitted to the Imperial German Government on May 15, and relies in these representations upon the principles of humanity, the universally recognized understandings of international law and the ancient friendship of the German nation."


To that note Germany did not reply until July 8, and the German rejoinder was preponderately characterized by American newspapers not as a note, but as an address by Foreign Minister von Jagow to the American people. In official circles it was said to come no nearer to meeting the American contentions than did the former German note.

The nature of the reply was regarded officially as convincing evidence that Germany was holding the submarine warfare negotiations as a club over the United States to force this Government into some action to compel Great Britain to relax the food blockade. President Wilson steadfastly refused to permit the diplomatic negotiations of the United States with one belligerent to become entangled with the relations with another.

To that the United States replied on July 21 that the German note was "very unsatisfactory," because it failed to meet "the real differences between the two Governments." The United States, it declared, was keenly disappointed with Germany's attitude. Submarine attacks without warning, endangering Americans and other neutrals, were characterized as illegal and inhuman and manifestly indefensible. The German retaliation against the British blockade, it maintained, must not interfere with the rights of neutrals, which the note declared were "based upon principles, not expediency, and the principles are immutable." It declared that the United States would continue to contend for the freedom of the seas "from whatever quarter violated, without compromise and at any cost." The American note concluded with these words of warning:

"Friendship itself prompts it (the United States Government) to say to the Imperial Government that repetition by the commanders of German naval vessels of acts in contravention of those rights must be regarded by the Government of the United States, when they affect American citizens, as deliberately unfriendly."


The negotiations at this point seemed to have come to such an impasse that the exchanges of notes between Washington and Berlin were stopped and the controversy was brought into the realm of "informal conversations" between Secretary Lansing and Count von Bernstorff, the German Ambassador. It was thought that much could be accomplished by personal contact which was lost in a cold exchange of documents.

Meanwhile the Arabic was sunk on August 19. Coming close on the unsuccessful Lusitania negotiations and a continuation of submarine attacks in which Americans had suffered, it seemed that the United States and Germany had at last reached the point of a break. Then, on September 1, came the first rift in the threatening situation. Count von Bernstorff presented this written assurance to Secretary Lansing:

"Liners will not be sunk by our submarines without warning and without safety of non-combatants, provided that the liners do not try to escape or offer resistance."

The United States had agreed all along that ships hailed for visit and search by a war vessel took a risk if they attempted to flee, but it contended not for the safety of "liners" alone, but for the immunity of all peaceful merchant vessels. The word "liners" was the perplexing point in Germany's assurances and a complete agreement on what it actually meant never was finally reached.

More hopefulness was added to the situation when, on October 5, the Arabic case was disposed of by Germany disavowing the sinking and giving renewed assurances that submarine commanders had been again instructed to avoid repetition of the acts which provoked American condemnation. Count von Bernstorff delivered to Secretary Lansing this communication:


"The orders issued by his Majesty the Emperor to the commanders of submarines-of which I notified you on a previous occasion-have been made so stringent that the recurrence of incidents similar to the Arabic case is considered out of the question. The Imperial Government regrets and disavows this act and has notified Commander Schneider accordingly."

With that the negotiations reverted to the Lusitania case. Germany already had agreed to pay indemnity for American lives lost, but the negotiations were delayed by a seeming deadlock over the words in which Germany should acknowledge the illegality of the destruction of the liner. Germany, unwilling to use the word "illegal," substituted a declaration that "reprisals must not be directed at others than enemy subjects." A formal communication, including such a declaration and expressing regret for loss of American lives, assuming liability and offering reparation in the form of indemnity, was submitted to Secretary Lansing.

A favorable settlement of the long and threatened controversy seemed to be in sight when all the progress that had been made was reduced to nothing by Germany's declaration of a new submarine policy of sinking without warning all armed merchant ships. That precipitated a new situation so vitally interwoven with the whole structure of the Lusitania case that President Wilson declined to close the Lusitania settlement while the other issue was pending, and there the whole matter rested while German submarine warfare was contained and new cases involving loss of American lives piled up.

Finally the accumulation of evidence reached such proportions with the torpedoing of the Sussex that President Wilson, convinced that assurances given in the Lusitania and Arabic cases were being violated, dispatched another note to Germany, and went before Congress, reviewed the entire situation from the beginning, and made this declaration:


"I have deemed it my duty to say to the Imperial German Government that if it is still its purpose to prosecute relentless and indiscriminate warfare the Government of the United States is at last forced to the conclusion that there is only one course it can pursue; and that, unless the Imperial German Government should now, immediately, declare and effect an abandonment of its present methods of warfare against passenger and freight-carrying vessels this Government can have no choice but to sever diplomatic relations altogether."

It will be noted that the President went further than "liners," and said "passenger and freight-carrying vessels."

In the note sent at this time the President said:

"No limit of any kind has in fact been set to the indiscriminate pursuit and destruction of merchantmen of all kinds and nationalities within the waters constantly extending in area where these operations have been carried on, and the roll of Americans who have lost their lives on ships thus attacked and destroyed has grown month by month until the ominous toll has mounted into the hundreds. Again and again the Imperial German Government has given this Government its solemn assurances that at least passenger ships would not be thus dealt with, and yet it has again and again permitted its undersea commanders to disregard those assurances with entire impunity."


During all the negotiations the Berlin Foreign Office looked to Count von Bernstorff to prevent a break. His attitude was represented as propitiatory from the viewpoint of the United States and opposed to the submarine warfare of Von Tirpitz. On several occasions he is said to have warned his Emperor personally that a continuance of the warfare against which the United States protested would surely lead to a break. Meanwhile the Ambassador's own position was embarrassed by the operations of German sympathizers in the United States plotting against American neutrality. Some of these operations were traced directly to the military and naval attaches of the embassy, who were withdrawn.

Germany's final note in the Sussex case, received in Washington on May 5, said that "the German naval forces have received the following order":

"In accordance with the general principles of visit and search and the destruction of merchant vessels recognized by international law, such vessels, both within and without the area declared a naval war zone, shall not be sunk without warning and without saving human lives, unless the ship attempts to escape or offers resistance."

Contending that the Imperial Government was unwilling to restrict an effective weapon if "the enemy is permitted to apply at will methods of warfare violating the rules of international law," the note expressed the hope that the United States would "demand and insist that the British Government shall observe forthwith the rules of international law." The communication added:

"Should the steps taken by the Government of the United States not attain the object it (the German Government) desires, to have the laws of humanity followed by all belligerent nations, the German Government would then be facing a new situation in which it must reserve to itself complete liberty of decision."

To any such reservations the United States demurred in no uncertain terms.


"The United States feels it necessary to state," said President Wilson's reply, "that it takes it for granted that the Imperial German Government does not intend to imply that the maintenance of its newly announced policy is any way contingent upon the course or result of diplomatic negotiations between the Government of the United States and any other belligerent Government, notwithstanding the fact that certain passages in the Imperial Government's note might appear to be susceptible of that construction."

In completing the declaration that there must be no misunderstanding that rights of American citizens must not be made subject to the conduct of some other Government, the note concluded by saying: "Responsibility in such matters is single, not joint; absolute, not relative."

The climax came on February 1, 1917, when Count von Bernstorff, German Ambassador at Washington, handed to Secretary Lansing a note from Germany on the U-boat policy, supplemented by the "order" and declaration that the Imperial Government proposed to stop sea traffic in the "zones" which it marked as prohibited, by every means at its command. This is the restricted zone order:

"From February 1, 1917, sea traffic will be stopped with every available weapon and without further notice in the following blockade zones around Great Britain, France, Italy and in the Eastern Mediterranean.


"In the North: The zone is confined by a line at a distance of twenty sea miles along the Dutch coast to Terschelling fireship, the degree of longitude from Terschelling fireship to Udsire (Norway), a line from there across, the point 62 degrees north 0 degrees longitude to 62 degrees north 5 degrees west, further to a point three sea miles south of the southern point of the Farve (Faroe?) Islands, from there across a point 62 degrees north 10 degrees west to 61 degrees north 15 degrees west, then 57 degrees north 20 degrees west to 47 degrees north 20 degrees west, further to 43 degrees north, 15 degrees west, then along the degree of latitude 43 degrees north to 20 sea miles from Cape Finisterre and at a distance of 20 sea miles along the north coast of Spain to the French boundary.

"In the south (Mediterranean):

"For neutral ships remains open: The sea west of the line Pt des' Espiquette to 38 degrees 20 minutes north and 6 degrees east, also north and west of a zone 61 sea miles wide along the North African coast, beginning at 2 degrees longitude west. For the connection of this sea zone with Greece there is provided a zone of a width of 20 sea miles north and east of the following line: 38 degrees north and 6 degrees east to 38 degrees north and 10 degrees west to 37 degrees north and 11 degrees 30 minutes east to 34 degrees north and 22 degrees 30 minutes east. From there leads a zone 20 sea miles wide west of 22 degrees 30 minutes eastern longitude into Greek territorial waters.


"Neutral ships navigating these blockade zones do so at their own risk. Although care has been taken that neutral ships which are on their way toward ports of the blockade zones on February 1, 1917, and which have come in the vicinity of the latter, will be spared during a sufficiently long period, it is strongly advised to warn them with all available means in order to cause their return.

"Neutral ships which on February 1 are in ports of the blockade zones can with the same safety leave them.

"The instructions given to the commanders of German submarines provide for a sufficiently long period during which the safety of passengers on unarmed enemy passenger ships is guaranteed.

"Americans en route to the blockade zone on enemy freight steamships are not endangered, as the enemy shipping firms can prevent such ships in time from entering the zone.

"Sailing of regular American passenger steamships may continue undisturbed after February 1, 1917, if

"(a) The port of destination is Falmouth.

"(b) Sailing to or coming from that port course is taken via the Scilly Islands and a point 50 degrees north, 20 degrees west.

"(c) The steamships are marked in the following way, which must not be allowed to other vessels in American ports: On ship's hull and superstructure three vertical stripes one meter wide each to be painted alternately white and red. Each mast should show a large flag checkered white and red and the stern the American national flag. Care should be taken that during dark national flag and painted marks are easily recognizable from a distance, and that the boats are well lighted throughout.

"(d) One steamship a week sails in each direction, with arrival at Falmouth on Sunday and departure from Falmouth on Wednesday.

"(e) United States Government guarantees that no contraband (according to German contraband list) is carried by those steamships."

Immediately after the signing of the Congressional resolution declaring America at war, President Wilson ordered the mobilization of the United States Navy, and the Senate voted an emergency war fund of $100,000,000 for the use of the President. The forces of the United States on land and sea and in every country under the sun were notified that a state of war existed.

The entrance of America was regarded throughout the world as one of the most significant moves in the history of nations, and it filled the Allied forces with enthusiasm. Typical of the expressions on the part of the representatives of the Governments at war with Germany was that of Lloyd George, Premier of England, who said:

"America has at one bound become a world power in a sense she never was before. She waited until she found a cause worthy of her traditions. The American people held back until they were fully convinced that the fight was not a sordid scrimmage for power and possessions, but an unselfish struggle to overthrow a sinister conspiracy against human liberty and human rights.

"Once that conviction was reached, the great Republic of the West has leaped into the arena, and she stands now side by side with the European democracies, who, bruised and bleeding after three years of grim conflict, are still fighting the most savage foe that ever menaced the freedom of the world.

"The glowing phrases of the President's noble deliverance illumine the horizon and make clearer than ever the goal we are striving to reach.


"There are three phrases which will stand out forever in the story of this crusade. The first is that 'the world must be made safe for democracy,' the next, 'the menace to peace and freedom lies in the existence of autocratic governments backed by organized force, which is controlled wholly by their will and not by the will of their people,' and the crowning phrase is that in which he declares that 'a steadfast concert for peace can never be maintained except by the partnership of democratic nations.'

"These words represent the faith which inspires and sustains our people in the tremendous sacrifices they have made and are still making. They also believe that the unity and peace of mankind can only rest upon democracy, upon the right to have a voice in their own Government; upon respect for the right and liberties of nations both great and small, and upon the universal dominion of public right.

"To all of these the Prussian military autocracy is an implacable foe.

"The Imperial War Cabinet, representative of all the peoples of the British Empire, wish me on their behalf to recognize the chivalry and courage which call the people of the United States to dedicate the whole of their resources to the greatest cause that ever engaged human endeavor."

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