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world: that no nation should seek to extend its polity over any other nation or people, but that every people should be left free to determine its own polity, its own way of development, unhindered, unthreatened, unafraid, the little along with the great and powerful.” Instead of the old system of alliances there should be a general concert of powers: “There is no entangling alliance in a concert of powers. When all unite to act in the same sense and with the same purpose, all act in the common interest and are free to live their own lives under a common protection.” As the result of such a concert no one power would dominate the sea or the land; armaments might safely be limited; peace would be organized by the major force of mankind. As a guarantee of future justice and tranquillity the terms that settled the present war must be based upon justice and not be of the sort ordinarily dictated by the victor to the vanquished. It must be a "peace without victory.” Thus while Wilson warned Germany that her ambitions for continental domination would not be tolerated, he also warned the Allies that they could not count upon the United States to help them to crush Germany for their selfish individual purposes.
This speech, despite the unfortunate phrase,
"peace without victory,” was hailed in all liberal circles, amongst the Allies and in the United States, as a noble charter of the new international order Wilson had expressed the hope that he was “speaking for the silent mass of mankind everywhere who have as yet had no place or opportunity to speak their real hearts out concerning the death and ruin they see to have come already upon the persons and the homes they hold most dear.” This hope was doubtless realized. The first reaction in France and England was one of rather puzzled contempt, if we may judge by the press. But the newspaper writers soon found that what Wilson said many people had been thinking, and waiting for some one to say. Hall Caine wrote to the Public Ledger, “Let President Wilson take heart from the first reception of his remarkable speech. The best opinion here is one of deep feeling and profound admiration.” From that moment Wilson began to approach the position he was shortly to hold - that of moral leader of the world.
The President had been anxious to make plain his principles, before the United States became involved in the conflict through the withdrawal of German submarine pledges, as well as to convince the world that every honest effort possible had been
made to preserve the peace. He was only just in time. Already the advocates of ruthlessness in Berlin had persuaded the Kaiser and BethmannHollweg. They recognized that the resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare meant, in all probability, the intervention of the United States, but they recked little of the consequences. On January 16, 1917, the Kaiser telegraphed: “If a break with America is unavoidable, it cannot be helped; we proceed.” The same day the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Zimmermann, telegraphed to the German Minister in Mexico, instructing him to form an alliance with Mexico in the event of war between Germany and the United States, and to offer as bribe the States of New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas; he also suggested the possibility of winning Japan from her allegiance to the Entente and persuading her to enter this prospective alliance.
On the 31st of January, von Bernstorff threw off the mask. The German Ambassador informed our Government of the withdrawal of the Sussex pledge. On and after the 1st of February, German submarines would sink on sight all ships met within a delimited zone around the British Isles and in the Mediterranean. They would permit the sailing of a few American steamships, however, provided they followed a certain defined route to Falmouth and nowhere else, and provided there were marked "on ship's hull and superstructure three vertical stripes one meter wide, 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.” Other conditions followed. There might sail one steamship a week "in each direction, with arrival at Falmouth on Sunday and departure from Falmouth on Wednesday.” Furthermore the United States Government must guarantee “that no contraband (according to the German contraband list) is carried by those steamships.” Such were the orders issued to the United States. No native American could escape the humor of the stipulations, which for a moment prevented the national irritation from swelling into an outburst of deep-seated wrath.
There seems to have been little hesitation on the part of the President. On April 19, 1916, he had warned Germany that unrestricted submarine warfare meant a severance of diplomatic relations. Now, on February 3, 1917, addressing both houses of Congress, he announced that those relations had been broken. Von Bernstorff was given his papers and the American Ambassador, James W. Gerard, was recalled from Berlin. No other course of action could have been contemplated in view of the formality of the President's warning and the definiteness of Germany's defiance. Despite the protests of scattered pacifists, the country was as nearly a unit in its approval of Wilson's action as its heterogeneous national character permitted. All the pent-up emotions of the past two years found expression in quiet but unmistakable applause at the departure of the German Ambassador.
The promptitude of the President's dismissal of von Bernstorff did not conceal the disappointment which he experienced from Germany's revelation of her true purposes. He seems to have hoped to the end that the German liberals would succeed in bringing their Government to accept moderate terms of peace. Even now he expressed the hope that Germany's actions would not be such as to force the United States into the War: “I refuse to believe that it is the intention of the German authorities to do in fact what they have warned us they will feel at liberty to do. ... Only actual overt acts on their part can make me believe it even now.”