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His reëlection gave to the President an opportunity for bringing before the world his international aims. He purposed not merely to end the existing conflict but also to provide a basis for permanent peace and the security of democracy. During the early summer of 1916 he had received from Berlin hints that his mediation would not be unacceptable and it is possible that he planned at that time new efforts to bring the war to a close. But such a step was bound to be regarded as pro-German and in the state of opinion immediately after the Sussex crisis would have produced a storm of me American protests. Then the entrance of Rumania into the war so encouraged the Entente powers that there seemed little chance of winning French and British acceptance of mediation. The presidential election further delayed any overt step towards peace negotiations. Finally the wave of antiGerman feeling that swept the United States in November, on account of Belgian deportations, induced Wilson to hold back the note which he had already drafted. But it was important not to delay his pacific efforts over-long, since news came to Washington that unless Germany could obtain a speedy peace the extremist group in Berlin would insist upon a resumption of "ruthless”
submarine warfare. In these circumstances, early in December, the President prepared to issue his note.
But Germany acted more rapidly. Warned of Wilson's purpose the Berlin Government, on December 12, 1916, proposed negotiations. The occasion seemed to them propitious. Rumania had gone down to disastrous defeat. Russia was torn by corruption and popular discontent. On the western front, if the Germans had failed at Verdun, they were aware of the deep disappointment of the Allies at the paltry results of the great Somme drive. German morale at home was weakening; but if the Allies could be pictured as refusing all terms and determined upon the destruction of Germany, the people would doubtless agree to the unrestricted use of the submarine as purely defensive in character, even if it brought to the Allies the questionable assistance of America. The German note itself contained no definite terms. But its boastful tone permitted the interpretation that Germany would consider no peace which did not leave Central and Southeastern Europe under Teuton domination; the specific terms later communicated to the American Government in secret, verified this suspicion. A thinly veiled threat to
neutral nations was to be read between the lines of the German suggestion of negotiations.
Although it was obvious that he would be accused of acting in collusion with Germany, President Wilson decided not to postpone the peace note already planned. He looked upon the crisis as serious, for if peace were not secured at this time the chances of the United States remaining out of the war were constantly growing less. If he could compel a clear definition of war aims on both sides, the mutual suspicion of the warring peoples might be removed; the German people might perceive that the war was not in reality for them one of defense; or finally the Allies, toward whom Wilson was being driven by the threats of German extremists, might define their position in such terms as would justify him before the world in joining with them in a conflict not waged for selfish national purposes but for the welfare of humanity. Issued on December 18, 1916, his note summed up the chief points of his recently developed policy. It emphasized the interest of the United States in the future peace of the world, the irreparable injury to civilization that might result from a further continuance of the existing struggle, the advantages that would follow an explicit exposure of belligerent purposes, and the possibility of making “the permanent concord of the nations a hope of the immediate future, a concert of nations immediately practicable."
a step towards.peace the note was unsuccessfuil.: Germany was evasive. There was nothing her Government wanted less than the definite exposure of her purposes that Wilson asked. Her leaders were anxious to begin negotiations while German armies still held conquered territories as pawns to be used at the peace table. They would not discuss a League of Nations until Germany's continental position was secured. The Allies on the other hand would not make peace with an unbeaten Germany, which evidently persisted in the hope of dominating weaker nationalities and said no word of reparations for the acknowledged wrongs committed. Feeling ran high in England and France because Wilson's note had seemed to place the belligerents on the same moral plane, in its statement that the objects on both sides “are virtually the same, as stated in general terms to their own people and to the world.” The statement was verbally accurate and rang with a certain grim irony which may have touched Wilson's sense of humor. But the Allies were not in a state of mind to appreciate such humor. Their official answer, however, was frank, and in substance accepted the principles of permanent peace propounded by Wilson. It was evident to most Americans that the main purpose of Germany was to establish herself as the dominating power of the continent and possibly of the world; the aim of the Allies, on the other hand, seemed to be the peace of the world based upon democracy and justice rather than material force.
The President's attempt thus.cleared the air. It made plain to the majority of Americans that in sympathy, at least, the United States must be definitely aligned with Great Britain and France. Furthermore the replies of the belligerents gave to Wilson an opportunity to inform the world more definitely of the aims of the United States, in case it should be drawn into the war. This he did in a speech delivered to the Senate on January 22, 1917. America would play her part in world affairs, he said, but the other nations must clearly understand the conditions of our participation. The basis of peace must be the right of each individual nation to decide its destiny for itself without interference from a stronger alien power. "I am proposing as it were, that the nations should with one accord adopt the doctrine of President Monroe as the doctrine of the