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MAY NEED THE AUTHORITY TO ACT AT ANY MOMENT. I feel that I ought, in view of that fact, to obtain from you full and immediate assurance of the authority which I may need at any moment to exercise. No doubt I already possess that authority without special warrant of law by the plain implication of my constitutional duties and powers, but I prefer in the present circumstances not to act upon general implication. I wish to feel that the authority and the power of the Congress are behind me in whatever it may become necessary for me to do. We are jointly the servants of the people and must act together and in their spirit, so far as we can divine and interpret it.
No one doubts what it is our duty to do. We must defend our commerce and the lives of our people in the midst of the present trying circumstances with discretion, but with clear and steadfast purpose. Only the method and the extent remain to be chosen upon the occasion, if occasion should indeed arise.
Since it has unhappily proved impossible to safeguard our neutral rights by diplomatic means against the unwarranted infringements they are suffering at the hands of Germany, there may be no recourse but to armed neutrality, which we shall know how to maintain and for which there is abundant American precedent.
· NOT CONTEMPLATING WAR, BUT WANTS TO BE READY.
It is devoutly to be hoped that it will not be necessary to put armed forces anywhere into action. The American people do not desire it, and our desire is not different from theirs. I am sure that they will understand the spirit in which I am now acting, the purpose I hold nearest my heart, and would wish to exhibit in everything I do. I am anxious that the people of the nations at war also should understand and not mistrust us.
I hope that I need give no further proofs and assurances than I have already given throughout nearly three years of anxious patience that I am the friend of peace, and mean to preserve it for America so long as I am able.
I am not now proposing or contemplating war, or any steps that lead to it. I merely request that you will accord me by your own vote and definite bestowal the means and the authority to safeguard in practice the right of a great people, who are at peace and who are desirous of exercising none but the rights of peace, to follow the pursuit of peace in quietness and good will—rights recognized time out of mind by all the civilized nations of the world.
No course of my choosing or of theirs will lead to war. War can come only by the willful acts and aggressions of others.
ASKS POWER TO ARM SHIPS AND TO USE OTHER MEANS. You will understand why I can make no definite proposals or forecasts of action now and must ask for your supporting authority in the most general terms. The form in which action may become necessary can not yet be foreseen. I believe that the people will be willing to trust me to act with restraint, with prudence, and in the true spirit of amity and good faith that they have themselves displayed throughout these trying months; and it is in that belief that I request that you will authorize me to supply our merchant ships with defensive arms should that become necessary, and with the means of using them, and to employ any other instrumentalities or methods that may be necessary and adequate to protect our ships and our people in their legitimate and peaceful pursuits of the seas.
I request also that you will grant me at the same time, along with the powers I ask, a sufficient credit to enable me to provide adequate means of protection where they are lacking, including adequate insurance against the present war risks.
I have spoken of our commerce and of the legitimate errands of our people on the seas, but you will not be misled as to my main thought, the thought that lies beneath these phrases and gives them dignity and weight. CIVILIZATION AT STAKE IN ATTACK ON HUMAN RIGHTS.
ins. . It is not of material interest merely that we are thinking. It is, rather, of fundamental human rights, chief of all the right of life itself. I am thinking.not only of the rights of Americans to go and come about their proper business by way of the sea, but also of something much deeper, much more fundamental than that. I am thinking of those rights of humanity without which there is no civilization. My theme is of those great principles of compassion and of protection which mankind has sought to throw about human lives—the lives of noncombatants, the lives of men who are peacefully at work keeping the industrial processes of the world quick and vital, the lives of women and children, and of those who supply the labor which ministers to their sustenance.'
We are speaking of no selfish material rights, but of rights which our hearts support, and whose foundation is that righteous passion for justice upon which all law, all structures alike of family, of state, and of mankind must rest, and upon the ultimate base of our existence and our liberty. I can not imagine. any man with American principles at his heart hesitating to defend these things.
NOTE.—The Sixty-fifth Congress was called to meet in special session April 2, when the President addressed it on the existence of a state of war. The Senate passed the resolution on the 3d and the House on the 5th and the President signed it on the 6th. The President's address, the war resolution, and the proclamations are found at the close of part 2.
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATI
DOCUMENT | No. 2111
THE PROBLEMS OF NEUTRALITY WHEN THE WORLD IS AT WAR
S. D. FESS
(IN TWO PARTS)
PRESENTED BY MR. FOSTER