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that the President should call an extra session of the new Congress, to convene immediately on the expiration of the old Congress, and to force this action they had been filibustering for several days over important revenue and appropriation bills. Under the then existing rules of the Senate, there was no limit to debate, and a very small opposition group could block all legislation and indefinitely postpone final action on any measure by dilatory motions and long speeches.
When the armed neutrality measure came up for debate a small but determined opposition developed, which undertook to prevent a vote until the session ended, at noon March 4. Senator La Follette of Wisconsin was at the head of this group, and he was assisted by Senators Norris of Nebraska, Cummins of Iowa, Gronna of North Dakota, Clapp of Minnesota, and Works of California, Republicans, and Senators Stone of Missouri, O'Gorman of New York, Kirby of Arkansas, Lane of Oregon, and Vardaman of Mississippi, Democrats.
Senator Stone was Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. In consequence of his opposition to the bill, he relinquished parliamentary control of it to Senator Hitchcock of Nebraska, the next ranking member of the committee. The debate over the measure proceeded with more or less bitterness for three days, but it was not until the final day of the session, when it was clear that this small group had determined to defeat the measure by dilatory tactics, that the acri
mony reached its acute stage. The leaders of the Senate, both Democratic and Republican, as well as all the influence of the Administration, exerted all possible pressure on the filibusters to allow the measure to reach a vote, but in vain. Senators La Follette and Clapp were deaf to all appeals, and throughout the long session, lasting all night of the 3d of March and until the stroke of 12 on the 4th, they blocked every effort to have a vote. At noon the bill died by the automatic end of the session.
The Famous Manifesto .. During the early hours of March 4, when it was apparent that the filibuster would succeed, the Senate majority performed the unprecedented act of signing a manifesto declaring that the will of the overwhelming majority of the Senate was being defeated by a small group of recalcitrants. Seventy-five of the ninety-six members of the body signed the document, and eight more would have signed it could they have been reached. This historic manifesto was as follows:
The undersigned, United States Senators, favor the passage of Senate Bill 8322, to authorize the President of the United States to arm American merchant vessels.
A similar bill already has passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 403 to 13.
Under the rules of the Senate, allowing unlimited debate, it now appears to be impossible to obtain a vote prior to noon March 4, 1917, when the session of Congress expires.
We desire the statement entered in the record to establish the fact that the Senate favors the legislation and would pass it if a vote could be obtained.
President Wilson's Appeal to the Country
DRESIDENT WILSON was deeply in
dignant over the success of the Sen
ate filibusters in defeating the armed neutrality measure, and issued the following address to the country a few hours after Congress adjourned, following closely on the heels of his second inauguration:
The termination of the last session of the Sixty-fourth Congress by constitutional limitation disclosed a situation unparalleled in the history of the country, perhaps unparalleled in the history of any modern Government. In the immediate presence of a crisis fraught
with more subtle and far-reaching possibilities of national danger than any the Government has known within the whole history of its international relations, the Congress has been unable to act either to safeguard the country or to vindicate the elementary rights of its citizens. More than 500 of the 531 members of the two houses were ready and anxious to act: the House of Representatives had acted, by an overwhelming majority; but the Senate was unable to act because a little group of eleven Senators had determined that it should not.
The Senate has no rules by which debate can be limited or brought to an end, no rules by which dilatory tactics of any kind can be
prevented. A single member can stand in the way of action, if he have but the physical endurance. The result in this case is a complete paralysis alike of the legislative and of the executive branches of the Government.
This inability of the Senate to act has rendered some of the most necessary legislation of the session impossible at a time when the need of it was most pressing and most evident. The bill which would have permitted such combinations of capital and of organization in the export and import trade of the country as the circumstances of international competition have made imperative--a bill which the business judgment of the whole country approved and demanded-has failed. The opposition of one or two Senators has made it impossible to increase the membership of the Interstate Commerce Commission to give it the altered organization necessary for its efficiency. The Conservation bill, which should have released for immediate use the mineral resources which are still locked up in the public lands, now that their release is more imperatively necessary than ever, and the bill which would have made the unused water power of the country immediately available for industry have both failed, though they have been under consideration throughout the sessions of two Congresses and have been twice passed by the House of Representatives. The appropriations for the army have failed, along with the appropriations for the civil establishment of the Government, the appropriations for the Military Academy at West Point and the General Deficiency bill. It has proved impossible to extend the powers of the Shipping Board to meet the special needs of the new situations into which our commerce has been forced or to increase the gold reserve of our national banking system to meet the unusual circumstances of the existing financial situation.
It would not cure the difficulty to call the Sixty-fifth Congress in extraordinary session. The paralysis of the Senate would remain. The purpose and the spirit of action are not lacking now. The Congress is more definitely united in thought and purpose at this moment, I venture to say, than it has been within the memory of any men now in its membership. There is not only the most united patriotic purpose, but the objects members have in view are perfectly clear and definite. But the Senate cannot act unless its leaders can obtain unanimous consent. Its majority is powerless, helpless. In the midst of a crisis of extraordinary peril, when only definite and decided action can make the nation safe or shield it from war itself by the aggression of others, action is impossible.
Although, as a matter of fact, the nation and the representatives of the nation stand back of the Executive with unprecedented unanimity and spirit, the impression made abroad will, of course, be that it is not so and that other Governments may act as they please without fear that this Government can do anything at all. We cannot explain. The
explanation is incredible. The Senate of the United States is the only legislative body in the world which cannot act when its majority is ready for action. A little group of willful men, representing no opinion but their own, have rendered the great Government of the United States helpless and contemptible.
The remedy? There is but one remedy. The only remedy is that the rules of the Senate shall be so altered that it can act. The country can be relied upon to draw the moral. I believe that the Senate can be relied on to supply the means of action and save the country from disaster.
Supplementary Statement At the same time the President authorized the further statement that what rendered the situation even more grave than had been supposed, was the discovery that, while the President under his general constitutional powers could do much of what he had asked Congress to empower him to do, it had been found that there were certain old statutes as yet unrepealed which might raise insuperable practical obstacles and nullify his power.
Popular Indignation A wave of indignant protest swept the country. Legislatures of many States passed resolutions denouncing the filibustering Senators and pledging support to the President; mass meetings were held in many cities, and at some places the opposing Senators were hanged in effigy. Telegrams of protest poured in from all parts of America and resolutions of protest were passed by important bodies and associations throughout the country.
The Senate had been convened in extra session, as is the custom after the inauguration of the President, to act upon nominations. As soon as the body convened steps were taken to amend the rules so that there could never be a repetition of such a filibuster. An amendment was agreed upon by the Democratic and Republican caucuses, and on March 8 it was adopted by a vote of 76 to 3, the three negative votes being cast by Senators La Follette, Gronna, and Sherman of Illinois. This rule provides that a twothirds vote of the Senators present may bring a measure to a vote, and thereafter each Senator may debate the measure
only one hour, when it is to be put upon its passage without any dilatory motions further debate being in order.
Government. The adoption of the rule, as was anticipated, removed all obstacles to the effectiveness of an extra session of Congress, and President Wilson therefore called such a session by proclamation on March 9, summoning the body to meet on April 16, 1917.
This rule is regarded as the most farreaching change in the procedure of the Senate since the organization of our
Sinking of the Laconia and Algonquin P
RESIDENT WILSON declared in his
address of Feb. 3, in which he sev
ered diplomatic relations with Germany, that “only actual overt acts” of German submarines against American citizens and ships on the high seas could change the situation into one of war. The succeeding weeks brought a growing list of acts of that nature. On Feb. 3 the German submarine U-53 sank the American freight steamer Housatonic, bound from Galveston to Liverpool with grain. On Feb. 12 the American sailing schooner Lyman M. Law, en route with lumber from Maine to Italy, was destroyed by a submarine off the coast of Sardinia. Five Norwegian steamers with Americans on board were sunk without adequate warning in the next ten days.
The first American to perish by submarine attack after the break with Germany was Robert A. Haden, a missionary, traveling from China on the French steamer Athos, which was carrying Senegalese troops and colonial laborers. The Athos was torpedoed 210 miles east of Malta on Feb. 17. Mr. Haden perished while trying to aid the Chinese on board. Two American members of the crew of the British bark Calgorm Castle were reported lost after the torpedoing of that vessel in British waters on Feb. 27.
The Laconia Disaster A far graver case, however, occurred at 10:30 o'clock Sunday night, Feb. 27, when the Cunard liner Laconia, 18,000 tons burden, carrying seventy-three passengers-men, women, and children of whom six were American citizensmanned by a mixed crew of 216, bound from New York to Liverpool and loaded with foodstuffs, cotton, and war material, was torpedoed without warning by a German submarine 150 miles off the
Irish coast. The vessel sank in about forty minutes. Twelve persons perished in the bitter weather before the survivors in open boats were rescued by British patrol vessels.
Two of the dead were American citizens—Mrs. Mary E. Hoy and her daughter, Miss Elizabeth Hoy, of Chicago. Both were in a lifeboat that was swamped, and, though taken into another open boat, they died of exposure and were buried at sea. The Rev. Dunstan Sargent of Grenada, British West Indies, a passenger on the Laconia, who administered the last rites of the Roman Catholic Church to seven persons who perished, gave the following account of tragic events in his boat:
“Mrs. Hoy died in the arms of her daughter. Her body slipped off into the sea out of her daughter's weakened arms. The heartbroken daughter succumbed a few minutes afterward, and her body fell over the side of the boat as we were tossed by the huge waves.
“In icy water up to her knees for two hours, the daughter all the time bravely supported her aged mother, uttering words of encouragement to her. From the start both were violently seasick, which, coupled with the cold and exposure, gradually wore down their courage. They were brave women.
“ The first to die in our boat was W. Irvine Robinson of Toronto. After his body had been consigned to the sea we tossed about for an hour, getting more and more water until the gunwales were almost level with the sea. Then Cedric P. Ivatt of London, who was not physically strong, succumbed in the arms of his fiancée, who was close beside him, trying in vain to keep him warm by throwing her wealth of hair about his neck. Even after he died she refused to give him up,
and, although the additional weight made the situation more dangerous for us all, we yielded to her pitiful pleading and allowed her to keep the body. It was taken aboard the rescuing patrol, from which it was buried.
“ The Hoys were the next to pass away after Mr. Ivatt. Then a fireman died, and later two others of the crew who were too thinly clad to resist exposure.
Altogether, we were in the boat ten hours. We were rescued in the middle of the morning."
Word Picture of Scene One of the survivors, Floyd P. Gibbons, has placed on record this picture of the last moments of the Laconia:
The torpedo had struck at 10:30 P. M., according to our ship's time. It was thirty minutes afterward that another dull thud, which was accompanied by a noticeable drop in the hulk, told its story of the second torpedo that the submarine had dispatched through the engine room and the boat's vitals from a distance of 200 yards.
We watched silently during the next minute, as the tiers of lights dimmed slowly from white to yellow, then to red, and nothing was left but the murky mourning of the night, which hung over all like a pall.
A mean, cheese-colored crescent of a moon revealed one horn above a rag bundle of clouds low in the distance. A rim of blackness settled around our little world, relieved only by general leering stars in the zenith, and where the Laconia's lights had shown there remained only the dim outlines of a blacker hulk standing out above the water like a jagged headland, silhouetted against the overcast sky.
The ship sank rapidly at the stern until at last its nose stood straight in the air. Then it slid silently down and out of sight like a piece of disappearing scenery in a panorama spectacle.
As the vessel was sinking, the submarine that had done the deed suddenly rose out of the sea within a few feet of a boatload of passengers, and a German voice demanded the name of the ship, its tonnage and cargo, and the whereabouts of the Captain. . When he had received civil answers the German commander remarked: Well, you'll be all right. A British patrol will soon pick you up. Good night!” Then he and his ship vanished, and the lifeboats full of shivering victims were left weltering on the empty sea until picked up the next morning by patrol boats.
The sinking of the Laconia furnished
the overt act which the President had indicated would call for a more vigorous policy, but it rested with Congress to determine the extent of the warlike step to be taken. On Feb. 28 President Wilson made public the following cablegram which he had received from Austin Y. Hoy, whose mother and sister had perished through the act of a German submarine:
I am an American citizen, representing the Sullivan Machinery Company of Chicago, liv. ing abroad, not as an expatriate, but for the promotion of American trade. I love the flag, believing in its significance. My beloved mother and sister, passengers on the Laconia, have been foully murdered on the high seas.
As an American citizen outraged and as such fully within my rights and as an American son and brother bereaved, I call upon my Government to preserve its citizens' self-respect and save others of my countrymen from such deep grief as I now feel. I am of military age, able to fight. If my country can use me against these brutal assassins, I am at its call.
If it stultifies my manhood and my nation's by remaining passive under outrage, I shall seek a man's chance under another flag.
German Government officials regarded the Laconia case as the climax of the situation, and expected the United States to act, but added that there “could be no going back” in their submarine policy.
Sinking of the Algonquin The next act seriously affecting the relations of the two countries was the sinking of the American steamship Algonquin, bound from New York to London with foodstuffs. The Algonquin was attacked without warning at 6 o'clock on Monday morning, March 12, by a German submarine, which sank her with shellfire and bombs. After twenty-seven hours in open boats the crew of twentysix men reached Scilly. Captain A. Nordberg gave the following account of the event:
Just after daylight I was on the bridge. It was the mate's watch. I saw two steamers, apparently colliers, steaming west, one on the starboard and the other on the port side. Two minutes later the mate called my attention to another object and at once 1 said. “I think that is a submarine."
The submarine was about three miles distant, as were also the steamers. Immediately I saw a flash of a gun and a shell fell short. At once I stopped the engines and then went full speed astern, indicating this by three
blasts on the whistle. The submarine kept on firing, the fourth shot throwing up a column of water which drenched me and the man at the wheel. It was a close thing.
The fifth shot struck the ship's side and the next went aft. The submarine was using two guns. Twenty shots were fired at us. ordered the crew to the boats, and we pulled away two ship's lengths. All this time the submarine was firing at us. Some of the shots came very close.
Once we were in the boats the Germans ceased firing and the submarine dived. Later we saw the periscope, which circled the Algonquin half a dozen times. Then, finding her abandoned, the submarine came to the surface and boat's crew boarded the steamer.
The first thing done was to lower the American flag. Then I concluded they were going to sink my ship. Ten minutes after I heard the crackle of an explosion and saw
Ships Armed by Presidential Proclamation PREMA
RESIDENT WILSON issued on
March 9 the proclamation calling
Congress in extra session April 16, 1917, without specifying any particular purpose, but the following statement announcing the President's determination to arm merchant vessels was given out at the White House:
Secretary Tumulty stated in connection with the President's call for an extra session of Congress that the President is convinced that he has the power to arm American merchant ships and is free to exercise it at once. But so much necessary legislation is pressing for consideration that he is convinced that it is for the best interests of the country to have an early session of the Sixty-fifth Congress, whose support he will also need in all matters collateral to the defense of our merchant marine.
The President decided to act at once, and on March 12 formal notice was given to the world of this decision. The following statement, prepared by Secretary of State Lansing, after a conference with President Wilson, was sent out by the State Department on the 12th to all members of the Diplomatic Corps in Washington:
In view of the announcement of the Imperial German Government of Jan. 31, 1917, that all ships, those of neutrals included, met within certain zones of the high seas would be sunk without any precautions being taken for the safety of the persons on board, and without the exercise of visit and search, the Government of the United States has de
smoke. They had blown the ship up with bombs. In fifteen minutes the Algonquin had sunk.
The submarine was flying the German ensign. Her commander asked me the name, nationality, destination, and cargo of the ship, which had the American colors painted on her side and flew the American flag day and night. I asked him to tow us toward land, but he refused, saying: “ I'm too busy. I expect a couple of other steamers."
The Algonquin, as it happened, changed owners after its departure from New York, but the fact was unknown alike to the Captain and crew and to the German submarine commander. Fourteen members of the crew were Americans, and Captain Nordberg was a Norwegian who had become a naturalized American citizen.
termined to place upon all American merchant vessels sailing through the barred areas an armed guard for the protection of the vessels and the lives of the persons on board.
Legal Basis of Action In arriving at the decision that he had legal authority to furnish armament to merchantmen President Wilson was guided by the advice of both Secretary Lansing and Attorney General Gregory. Mr. Lansing had had no doubt from the first of the President's power to take means for the defense of American ships and American lives on the seas. Others thought, however, that a law enacted in 1819 prohibited the President from permitting any merchant vessel of American register to use force against the ships of a nation with which the United States was not actually and officially at
This law specified that armed merchant vessels should not use their guns against national vessels of a Government with which the United States was in amity.
Secretary Lansing held that this statute had been enacted with particular reference to protection against pirates, and that it had no application whatever to the present situation. It could not properly be construed, he contended, to apply to the use of arms by an American merchant vessel to protect itself against