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lowed three weeks later by the GERMAN SUBMARINE BLOCKADE
Arming American Merchant Ships and
the Events Attending It HE severance of diplomatic rela chant vessels and “ to employ any other tions with Germany was
fol instrumentalities or methods that may be
necessary and adequate to protect our second step in the determination ships and our people in their legitimate of the United States to preserve the pursuits on the seas." The President's freedom of the seas for its citizens, not address embodied the conclusions reached withstanding the establishment of a so by himself and his Cabinet after it had called " barred zone” by German subma become apparent that the German subrines, intended to cut off ingress to Eu marine blockade was operating practiropean ports.
cally as an embargo on American trade Count von Bernstorff, the German
with Europe. Ambassador, was dismissed on Feb. 3, While the President was proceeding 1917; on Feb. 26 President Wilson ap to the Capitol to deliver his address peared in person before the houses of news reached him of the torpedoing of Congress in joint session and read an the Cunard liner Laconia without warnaddress, the substance of which was that ing, by which American lives were lost. he should be authorized to supply arma This fact gave additional weight to his ment and ammunition to American mer words.
Text of the President's "Armed Neutrality"
Address to Congress P
RESIDENT WILSON’S address before Congress on Feb. 26 asked for a formal concession of
power enabling him to arm merchant ships and to take other measures needed for the protection of American citizens and property on the high seas when attacked by submarines. The full text of the address follows: Gentlemen of the Congress:
I have again asked the privilege of address. ing you because we are moving through critical times during which it seems to me to be my duty to keep in close uch with the houses of Congress, so that neither counsel nor action shall run at cross-purposes between us.
On the 3d of February I officially informed you of the sudden and unexpected action of the Imperial German Government in declaring its intention to disregard the promises it had made to this Government in April last and undertake immediate submarine operations against all commerce, whether of belligerents or of neutrals, that should seek to approach Great Britain and Ireland, the Atlantic coasts of Europe, or the harbors of the
Eastern Mediterranean and to conduct those operations without regard to the established restrictions of international practice, without regard to any considerations of humanity even which might interfere with their object.
That policy was forthwith put into practice. It has now been in active exhibition for nearly four weeks. Its practical results are not fully disclosed. The commerce of other neutral nations is suffering severely, but not, perhaps, very much more severely than it was already suffering before the 1st of February, when the new policy of the Imperial Government was put into operation.
We have asked the co-operation of the other neutral Governments to prevent these depredations, but I fear none of them has thought it wise to join us in any common course of action. Our own commerce has suffered, is suffering, rather in apprehension than in fact, rather because so many of our ship). are timidly keeping to their home ports than because American ships have been sunk.
Two American vessels have been sunk, tho Housatonic and the Lyman M. Law. The case of the Housatonic, which was carrying foodstuffs consigned to a London firm, was essentially like the
case of the Frye, in which, it will be recalled, the German Gov
ernment admitted its liability for damages, and the lives of the crew, as in the case cl the Frye, were safeguarded with reasonable care.
The case of the Law, which was carrying lemon-box staves to Palermo, disclosed a ruthlessness of method which deserves grave condemnation, but was accompanied by no circumstances which might not have been expected at any time in connection with the use of the submarine against merchantmen as the German Government has used it.
In sum, therefore, the situation we find ourselves in with regard to the actual conduct of the German submarine warfare against commerce and its effects upon our own ships and people is substantially the same that it was when I addressed you on the 3d of February, except for the tying up of our shipping in our own ports because of the unwillingness of our ship owners to risk their vessels at sea without insurance or adequate protection, and the very serious congestion of our commerce which has resulted-a congestion which is growing rapidly more and more serious every day.
This, in itself, might presently accomplish, in effect, what the new German submarine orders were meant to accomplish, so far as we are concerned. We can only say, therefore, that the overt act which I have ventured to hope the German commanders would in fact avoid has not occurred.
But while this is happily true, it must be admitted that there have been certain additional indications and expressions of purpose on the part of the German press and the German authorities which have increased rather than lessened the impression that, if our ships' and our people are spared, it will be because of fortunate circumstances or because the commanders of the German submarines which they may happen to encounter exercise an unexpected discretion and restraint, rather than because of the instructions under which those commanders are acting.
It would be foolish to deny that the situation is fraught with the gravest possibilities and dangers. No thoughtful man can fail to see that the necessity for definite action may come at any time if we are, in fact and not in word merely, to defend our elementary rights as a neutral nation. It would be most imprudent to be unprepared.
I cannot in such circumstances be unmindful of the fact that the expiration of the term of the present Congress is immediately at hand by constitutional limitation and that it would in all likelihood require an unusual length of time to assemble and organize the Congress which is to succeed it.
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.
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 need 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.
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 cannot 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 on 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. It is not of material interest merely that we are thinking. Is is, rather, of fundamental human rights, chief of all the right of life itself.
I am thinking not only of the right of Americans to go and come about their proper business by way of the sea, but also of some
thing 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, as upon the ultimate base of our existence and our liberty.
I cannot imagine any man with American principles at his heart hesitating to defend these things.
The Armed Ship Debate in Congress Form
JOLLOWING President Wilson's ap
pearance at the Capitol, Congress
man Flood, Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, introduced a bill to carry out the President's recommendations, the bill having been drafted at the White House. It was passed by the House on March 1 by a vote of 403 to 13; of those voting “No” nine were Republicans, three Democrats, and one a Socialist. As passed by the House the bill empowered the President to arm merchant ships, but did not extend to him authority “ to use other instrumentalities," and it prohibited insurance of munition-carrying ships in the Government War Risk Fund. The passage of the bill in the House was marked by many patriotic addresses and a complete absence of partisanship; the leaders of the Republican minority advocated the measure as enthusiastically as the Democratic leaders. It was debated for more than seven hours, and more than fifty speeches were made in its favor; there was no serious opposition.
Flood Proclaims Our Policy Chairman Flood of the Foreign Affairs Committee vigorously announced the policy of the Administration to submit no longer to the virtual blockading of American ports by the German submarine decree.
Germany, he said, had violated the promises made in the interchange of notes between the United States and that nation," and she is now undertaking to destroy every merchant vessel, whether belligerent or neutral, that is undertaking to land at any port of Great Britain or Ireland, on the Atlantic Coast, or the eastern ports of the Mediterranean. The American merchant marine is tied up in our harbors and American commerce is blockaded in our ports as effectually as if an enemy had blockaded those ports. This condition is intolerable to a free and a brave people, and it has continued as long as the American Government and the American people are willing to submit to it. The pending bill gives the President means to remedy this intolerable condition and free our commerce and protect the lives of American citizens in their lawful pursuits on the high seas."
Mr. Flood said the bill might not avert war, but it would do little directly to bring about war.
“ We may have to go further,” he continued, “but if we do the fault will not be ours. Our warships have the right to sail the seas, our citizens have the right to go there, and we propose to protect them in that right. I hope we can do it peacefully. If we cannot we will do it
with force and with arms. It is clear For the purpose of meeting the expendi
tures herein authorized, the Secretary of the that Germany does not intend to lessen
Treasury, under the direction of the Presithe ruthlessness of her submarine war
dent, is hereby authorized to borrow on the fare in order to avoid a conflict with this credit of the United States and to issue therecountry. Our duty is clear--to protect for bonds of the United States not exceeding
in the aggregate $100,000,000, said bonds to our citizens and our ships in their lawful
be in such form and subject to such terms pursuits.”
and conditions as the Secretary of the TreasMr. Flood said if Germany were con ury may prescribe and to bear interest at a
rate not exceeding 3 per centum per annum: ducting her submarine warfare in ac
Provided that such bonds shall be sold at not cordance with international law and the
less than par, shall not carry the circulation instincts of humanity, if she were merely privilege, and that all citizens of the United exercising the right of search and seiz States shall be given an equal opportunity to
subscribe therefor, but no commission shall ure, this country would take its chances
be allowed or paid thereon; that both princiin the prize courts, and there would be
pal and interest shall be payable in United no need for the legislation of today. States gold coin of the present standard of “But Germany is not doing that. She value, and be exempt from all taxation and
duties of the United States as well as from proposes to sink merchant vessels without
taxation in any form of all State, municipal, warning and without the slightest oppor or local authorities; that any bonds issued tunity for noncombatants on board to hereunder may, under such conditions as the save their lives. America is not willing
Secretary of the Treasury may prescribe, be
convertible into bonds bearing a higher rate to fail to defend her citizens, and I can
of interest than 3 per centum per annum, if not understand how any man with Amer any bonds shall be issued by the United ican blood in his veins and American States at a higher rate than 3 per centum sentiment in his heart can hesitate to
per annum by virtue of any act passed on or
before Dec. 31, 1918. give to the President the authority to
In order to pay the necessary expenses conprotect lives of American citizens."
nected with the said issue of bonds, or any Fails in the Senate
conversions thereof, a suń not exceeding one
fifth of 1 per centum of the amount of bonds On Feb. 27 the Foreign Relations Com herein authorized to be issued, or which may mittee of the United States Senate re be converted, is hereby appropriated, out of ported the measure to that body, with the
any money in the Treasury not otherwise
appropriated, to be expended as the Secretary fullest indorsement of the Administra
of the Treasury may direct. tion. The text of the bill, as reported,
The President is authorized to transfer so was as follows:
much of the amount herein appropriated as Be it enacted by the Senate and House of
he may deem necessary, not exceeding $25,Representatives of the United states of
000,000, to the Bureau of War Risk InsurAmerica, in Congress assembled:
ance, created by act of Congress, approved
Sept. 2, 1914, for the purpose of insuring vesThat the commanders and crews of all
seis, their freight, passage moneys, and carmerchant vessels of the United States and
goes against loss or damage by the present bearing the registry of the United States are
risks of war. hereby authorized to arm and defend such vessels against unlawful attacks, and the
The Senate Filibuster President of the United States is hereby
The discussion of this measure in the authorized and empowered to supply such vessels with defensive arms, fore and aft, and Senate and its failure of passage through also with the necessary ammunition and a filibuster by a small group marked means of making use of them; and that he
one of the most sensational episodes in be, and is hereby, authorized and empowered to employ such other instrumentalities and
the history of the upper house of the methods as may in his judgment and discre National Legislature, and resulted in a tion seem necessary and adequate to protect change in the rules which had been adsuch vessels and the citizens of the United
vocated fruitlessly for over 100 years. States in their lawful and peaceful pursuits on the high seas.
The session of Congress was to end The sum of $100,000,000 is hereby appropri automatically on March 4, hence there ated, to be expended by the President of the were but four days remaining when the United States for the purpose of carrying into
measure was introduced. A certain group effect the foregoing provisions, the said sum to be available until the first day of Janu
of Senators, in view of the critical forary, 1918.
eign situation, had previously insisted