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758 men were lost by enemy attack, 630 of whom were upon a single English transport, which was sunk near the Orkney Islands.
I need not tell you what lay back of this great movement of men and material. It is not invidious to say that back of it lay a supporting organization of the industries of the country and of all its productive activities, more complete, more thorough in method and effective in result, more spirited and unanimous in purpose and effort than any other great belligerent has been able to effect. We profited greatly by the experience of the nations which had already been engaged for nearly three years in the exigent and exacting business, their every resource and every executive proficiency taxed to the utmost. We were their pupils. But we learned quickly and acted with a promptness and a readiness that justify our great pride that we were able to serve the world with unparalleled energy and quick accomplishment.
Praises Work of Troops.—But it is not the physical scale and executive efficiency of preparation, supply, equipment and dispatch that I would dwell upon, but the mettle and quality of the officers and men we sent over and of the sailors who kept the seas, and the spirit of the nation that stood behind them. No soldiers or sailors ever proved themselves more quickly ready for the test of battle or acquitted themselves with more splendid courage and achievement when put to the test.
Those of us who played some part in directing the great processes hy which the war was pushed irresistibly forward to the final triumph may now forget all that and delight our thoughts with the story of what our men did. Their officers understood the grim and exacting task they had undertaken and performed it with an audacity, efficiency and unhesitating courage that touch the story of convoy and battle with imperishable distinction at every turn, whether the enterprise were great or smallfrom their great chiefs, Pershing and Sims, down to the youngest lieutenant; and their men were worthy of them—such men as hardly need to be commanded, and go to their terrible adventure blithely and with the quick intelligence of those who know just what it is they would accomplish. I am proud to be the fellow countryman of men of such stuff and valor.
Duty Also Well Done by Those at Home.—Those of us who stayed at home did our duty; the war could not have been won or the gallant men who fought it given their opportunity to win it otherwise; but for many a long day we shall think ourselves “accurs'd we were not there and hold our manhoods cheap while any speaks that fought,” with those at St. Mihiel or Thierry. The memory of those days of triumphant battle will go with these fortunate men to their graves, and each will have his favorite memory.
Old men forget, yet all shall be forgot, but he'll remember with advantages what feats he did that day!
What we all thank God for with deepest gratitude is that our men went in force into the line of battle just at the critical moment when the whole fate of the world seemed to hang in the balance and threw their fresh strength into the ranks of freedom in time to turn the whole tide and sweep of the fateful struggle-turn it once for all, so that thenceforth it was back, back, back, for their enemies; always back, never again forward ! After that it was only a scant four months before the commanders of the Central Powers knew themselves beaten, and now their very empires are in liquidation! [Part of message omitted.]
His "Paramount Duty” to Go:-I welcome this occasion to announce to the Congress my purpose to join in Paris the representatives of the governments with which we have been associated in the war against the Central Empires for the purpose of discussing with them the main features of the treaty of peace. I realize the great inconveniences that will attend my leaving the country, particularly at this time, but the conclusion that it was my paramount duty to go has been forced upon me by con
siderations which I hope will seem as conclusive to you as they have seemed to me.
The allied governments have accepted the bases of peace which I outlined to the Congress on the 8th of January last, as the Central Empires also have, and very reasonably desire my personal counsel in their interpretation and application, and it is highly desirable that I should give it in order that the sincere desire of our government to contribute without selfish purpose of any kind to settlements that will be of common benefit to all the nations concerned may be made fully manifest.
The peace settlements which are now to be agreed upon are of transcendent importance both to us and to the rest of the world, and I know of no business or interest which should take precedence of them.
The gallant men of our armed forces on land and sea have consciously fought for the ideals which they knew to be the ideals of their country; I have sought to express those ideals; they have accepted my statements of them as the substance of their own thought and purpose, as the associated governments have accepted them; I owe it to them to see to it, as far as in me lies, that no false or mistaken interpretation is put upon them, and no possible effort omitted to realize them. It is now my duty to play my full part in making good what they offered their life's blood to obtain. I can think of no call to service which could transcend this.
I shall be in close touch with you and with affairs on this side the water, and you will know all that I do. At my request the French and English governments have absolutely removed the censorship of cable news which until within a fortnight they had inaintained, and there is now no censorship whatever exercised at this end except upon attempted trade communications with enemy countries.
It has been necessary to keep an open wire constantly available between France and the Department of War. In order that this might be done with the least possible interference with the other use of the cables, I have temporarily taken over the control of both cables in order that they may be used as a single system.
I did so at the advice of the most experienced cable officials, and I hope that the results will justify my hope that the news of the next few months may pass with the utmost freedom and with the least possible delay from each side of the sea to the other.
May I not hope, gentlemen of the Congress, that in the delicate tasks I shall have to perform on the other side of the sea, in my efforts truly and faithfully to interpret the principles and purposes of the country we love, I may have the encouragement and the added strength of your united support? I realize the magnitude and difficulty of the duty I am undertaking ; I am poignantly aware of its grave responsibilities.
I am the servant of the nation. I can have no private thought or purpose of my own in performing such an errand. I go to give the best that is in me to the common settlements which I must now assist in arriving at in conference with the other working heads of the associated governments. I shall count upon your friendly countenance and encouragement.
I shall not be inaccessible. The cables and the wireless will render me available for any counsel or service you may desire of me, and I shall be happy in the thought that I am constantly in touch with the weighty matters of domestic policy with which we shall have to deal.
I shall make my absence as brief as possible, and shall hope to return with the happy assurance that it has been possible to translate into action the great ideals for which America has striven.
PRESIDENT SUPPORTS Full Naval PROGRAM.—In the same message the President endorsed as follows the current naval estimates:
I take it for granted that the Congress will carry out the naval program which was undertaken before we entered the war. The Secretary of the
Navy has submitted to your committees for authorization that part of the program which covers the building plans for the next three years.
These plans have been prepared along the lines and in accordance with the policy which the Congress established, not under the exceptional conditions of the war, but with the intention of adhering to a definite method of development for the navy. I earnestly recommend the uninterrupted pursuit of that policy. It would clearly be unwise for us to attempt to adjust our programs to a future world policy'as yet undetermined.
The question which causes me the greatest concern is the question of the policy to be adopted towards the railroads. I frankly turn to you for counsel upon it. I have no confident judgment of my own. I do not see how any thoughtful man can have who knows anything of the complexity of the problem. It is a problem which must be studied, studied immediately and studied without bias or prejudice. Nothing can be gained by becoming partisans of any particular plan of settlement.
THE PRESIDENT's Voyage.- President Wilson and his party sailed from New York on the U. S. S. George Washington on Thursday, December 5, and, arriving in Brest on Friday, reached Paris Saturday morning, December 14. He was given an enthusiastic reception by the people of Paris, and on the same day responded to the welcome of President Poincaré and to an address presented by a Socialist delegation. The reply to President Poincaré follows:
“Mr. President: I am deeply indebted to you for your gracious greeting. It is very delightful to find myself in France and to feel the quick contact of sympathy and unaffected friendship between the representatives of the United States and the representatives of France.
“You have been very generous in what you were pleased to say about myself, but I feel that what I have said and what I have tried to do has been said and done only in an attempt to speak the thought of the people of the United States truly, and to carry that thought out in action.
“From the first, the thought of the people of the United States turned toward something more than the mere winning of this war. It turned to the establishment of eternal principles of right and justice. It realized that merely to win the war was not enough; that it must be won in such a way and the question raised by it settled in such a way as to insure the future peace of the world and lay the foundations for the freedom and happiness of its many peoples and nations.
Never before has war worn so terrible al visage or exhibited more grossly the debasing influence of illicit ambitions. I am sure that I shall look upon the ruin wrought by the armies of the Central Empires with the same repulsion and deep indignation that they stir in the hearts of the men of France and Belgium, and I appreciate, as you do, sir, the necessity of such action in the final settlement of the issues of the war as will not only rebuke such acts of terror and spoliation, but make men everywhere aware that they cannot be ventured upon without the certainty of just punishment.
" I know whi what ardor and enthusiasm the soldiers and sailors of the United States have given the best that was in them to this war of redemption. They have expressed the true spirit of America. They believe their ideals to be acceptable to free peoples everywhere, and are rejoiced to have played the part they have played in giving reality to those ideals in cooperation with the armies of the Allies. We are proud of the part they have played, and we are happy that they should have been associated with such comrades in a common cause
“ It is with peculiar feeling, Mr. President, that I find myself in France joining with you in rejoicing over the victory that has been won. The ties that bind France and the United States are peculiarly close. I do not know in what other comradeship we could have fought with more
zest or enthusiasm. It will daily be a matter of pleasure with me to be brought into consultation with the statesmen of France and her allies in concerting the measures by which we may secure permanence for these happy relations of friendship and co-operation, and secure for the world at large such safety and freedom in its life as can be secured only by the constant association and co-operation of friends.
“I greet you not only with deep personal respect, but as the representative of the great people of France, and beg to bring you the greetings of another great people to whom the fortunes of France are of profound and lasting interest.
“I raise my glass to the health of the President of the French Republic and to Mme. Poincaré and the prosperity of France."
INTERALLIED CONFERENCES POSTPONED.--Plans for the reassembling of the Interallied Conference and the meetings of the Peace Congress are gradually being matured. It was the first intention to have the Interallied Conference meet to-morrow or Tuesday, but owing to the inability of Premier Lloyd George and Foreign Minister Balfour to be here because of the British elections and the approaching holidays, the formal session will not be resumed until after Jan. 1.
Meanwhile President Wilson will have an opportunity to confer with the Premiers and leading statesmen of the Allies and to visit the battlefields and perhaps Italy. King Victor Emmanuel, the Crown Prince and Premier Orlando arrived in Paris Thursday. They will dine with the President some time this week.
The merits of the questions and considerations to come before the conference thus far have developed only in their initial phases, discussions of them having been more or less informal. For the American delegates the chief object to be obtained during the next fortnight is a first-hand understanding of the views of the European statesmen and an opportunity to convey to them the American point of view.--N. Y. Times, 16/12.
FREEDOM OF THE SEAS In press and public discussion during the period preceding the opening of the formal peace conference, the President's statement regarding freedom of the seas took precedence over other issues, as the clause most difficult of interpretation and most likely to involve differences of opinion among the allied powers. It will be recalled that clause 2 of the President's “Fourteen Points” of January 8, 1918, read as follows:
2. Absolute freedom of navigation upon the seas, outside territorial waters, alike in peace and in war, except as the seas may be closed in whole or in part by international action for the enforcement of international covenants.
The allied governments, in agreeing to the German request for an armistice, accepted the President's terms of peace, but made an exception of this clause, pointing out that the phrase freedom of the seas was “open to various interpretations, some of which they could not accept." They therefore “reserve to themselves complete freedom on this subject when they enter the peace conference." In later discussion it was generally agreed that in time of peace “freedom of the seas” had already existed throughout the past century. It was further accepted that, should some form of a league of nations come into being, the power of blockade and interdiction of commerce would be employed by it as a most effective measure against nations violating the agreements of the league. If, however, such a league were not formed, doubt was expressed whether the maritime states would be wise to give up the safeguards of commerce warfare, which in the past had been the chief weapon of sea power. Following are quotations from various sources.
CHURCHILL SAYS BRITAIN Won't Limit Navy.-In a speech at Dundee on Dec. 5, Winston Churchill declared that British delegates at the peace conference would demand abolition of conscription throughout Europe, but that Great Britain would consent to no limitation of her naval defence. These views were afterward expanded as follows in an article in the Glasgow Sunday Post:
“Our safety from invasion, our daily bread, every means whereby we maintain our existence as an independent people; our unity as an empire or federation of commonwealths and dependencies—all these float from hour to hour upon our naval defence," Mr. Churchill writes.
"If that defence is neglected, weakened, or fettered,” he continues, “we all shall be in continual danger of subjugation or starvation. We should be forced to live in continued anxiety. If that naval defence were overpowered or outmatched by any other navy, or probably by a combination of navies, we should hold, not merely our possessions, but our lives and liberties, only on sufferance.
“Where else in the whole world can such conditions be paralleled ? We have the right to demand from all other nations, friends and foes alike, full recognition of those facts. We are also entitled to point out that this naval strength that we require and which we are determined to preserve has never been used in modern history in a selfish and aggressive manner, and that it has on four separate occasions in four separate centuries against Philip II of Spain, Louis XIV, Napoleon, and the Kaisersuccessfully defended civilization from military tyranny, and particularly preserved the independence of the Low Countries.
"In this greatest of all wars the British Navy shielded mighty America from all menace of serious danger, and when she resolved to act it was the British Navy that transported and escorted the greater proportion of her armies to the rescue and deliverance of France. Our record in a hundred years of unquestioned naval sway since Trafalgar proves the sobriety of our policy and the righteousness of our intentions. Almost the only ports in the world open freely to the commerce of all nations were those of our islands. Its possessions and our coaling stations were used freely and fully by the ships of all nations.
“We suppressed the slave trade. We put down piracy. We put it down again the other day. Even our coastwise traffic, so jealously guarded by every power in the world, was thrown open to all comers on even terms by that ancient people in whose keeping the world has been wisely ready to intrust the freedom of the seas.
“We are sincere advocates of a League of Nations. Every influence Britain can bring to bear will be used to make such a league a powerful reality. This fine conception of President Wilson has been warmly welcomed by British democracies all over the world. We shall strive to faithfully and loyally carry it into being and keep it in active benefit and existence. But we must state quite frankly that a League of Nations cannot be for us a substitute for the British Navy in any period that we can foresee."
BRITISH PRESS ON FREEDOM OF SEAS.--The London Times reports Mr. Macpherson, the Under-Secretary for War, as saying:
“We are an island. Our one security is our navy. We can never submit to anything that can weaken this one security.'
Archibald Hurd, the naval critic of the London Daily Telegraph, thinks that freedom of the seas is another way of saying "abolish the right of blockade," and he argues that
“In war, as recent events have shown, effective freedom of the seas, as of the world, demands maintenance of ancient sea rights which have repeatedly proved to be the salvation of civilization. Philip II of Spain,