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and intensely practical question connected with the future fortunes of nations and of mankind.
I have spoken upon these great matters without reserve and with the utmost explicitness because it has seemed to me to be necessary if the world's yearning desire for peace was anywhere to find free voice and utterance. Perhaps I am the only person in high authority amongst all the peoples of the world who is at liberty to speak and hold nothing back. I am speaking as an individual, and yet I am speaking also, of course, as the responsible head of a great government, and I feel confident that I have said what the people of the United States would wish me to say. May I not add that I hope and believe that I am in effect speaking for liberals and friends of humanity in every nation and of every programme of liberty? I would fain believe that I am 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 horns they hold most dear.
Ana in holding out the expectation that the people and Government of the United States will join the other civilized nations of the world in guaranteeing the permanence of peace upon such terms as I have named I speak with the greater boldness and confidence because it is clear to every man who can think that there is in this promise no breach in either our traditions or our policy as a nation, but a fulfilment, rather, of all that we have professed or striven for.
I am proposing, as it were, that the nations should with one accord adopt the doctrine of President Monroe as the doctrine of the 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.
I am proposing that all nations henceforth avoid entangling alliances which would draw them into competitions of power; catch them in a net of intrigue and selfish rivalry, and disturb their own affairs with influences intruded from without. There is no entangling alliance in a concert of power. 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.
I am proposing government by the consent of the governed; that freedom of the seas which in international conference after conference representatives of the United States have urged with the eloquence of those who are the convinced disciples of liberty; and that moderation of armaments which makes of armies and navies a power for order merely, not an instrument of aggression or of selfish violence.
These are American principles, American policies. We could stand for no others. And they are also the principles and policies of forward looking men and women everywhere, of every modern nation, of every enlightened community. They are the principles of mankind and must prevail.
President Wilson's Second Veto Of An ImmigrationRestriction Bill
[editorial Note: A bill seeking to restrict immigration by imposing a reading test, in any language, had again come to the President for approval—a similar measure having been vetoed on January 28, 1916 (see page 9£).]
To the House of Representatives:
I very much regret to return this bill (H. R. 10384, "An act to regulate the immigration of aliens to, and the residence of aliens in, the United States") without my signature. In most of the provisions of the bill I should be very glad to concur, but I cannot rid myself of the conviction that the literacy test constitutes a radical change in the policy of the Nation which is not justified in principle. It is not a test of character, of quality, or of personal fitness, but would operate in most cases merely as a penalty for lack of opportunity in the country from which the alien seeking admission came. The opportunity to gain an education is in many cases one of the chief opportunities sought by the immigrant in coming to the United States, and our experience in the past has not been that the illiterate immigrant is as such an undesirable immigrant. Tests of quality and of purpose cannot be objected to on principle, but tests of opportunity surely may be.
Moreover, even if this test might be equitably insisted on, one of the exceptions proposed to its application involves a provision which might lead to very delicate and hazardous diplomatic situations. The bill exempts from the operation of the literacy test "all aliens who shall prove to the satisfaction of the proper immigration officer or to the Secretary of Labor that they are seeking admission to the United States to avoid religious persecution in the country of their last permanent residence, whether such persecution be evidenced by overt acts or by laws or governmental regulations that discriminate against the alien or the race to which he belongs because of his religious faith." Such a provision, so applied and administered, would oblige the officer concerned in effect to pass judgment upon the laws and practices of a foreign Government and declare that they did or did not constitute religious persecution. This would, to say the least, be a most invidious function for any administrative officer of this Government to perform, and it is not only possible, but probable, that very serious questions of international justice and comity would arise between this Government and the Government or Governments thus officially condemned should its exercise be attempted. I dare say that these consequences were not in the minds of the proponents of this provision, but the provision separately and in itself renders it unwise for me to give my assent to this legislation in its present form.
Woodrow Wilson. The White House, January 29,1917.
[Immigration legislation was not then a pressing topic; for with the outbreak of war in Europe the number of immigrants admitted into the United States had decreased from 1,200,000 annually to 300,000. Favoring restrictive legislation were those who argued that when war was ended vast numbers would rush to the United States. Opposed to such legislation were many who maintained that a Europe under reconstruction would absorb all the energies of its populations, and others expressed anxiety over the growing scarcity of common labor in the United States.
But Congress was overwhelmingly in favor of the legislation, and the bill was promptly passed over President Wilson's veto. Thus a literacy test was finally imposed on immigrants, in accordance with the recommendations of an Immigration Commission, after vetoes by Presidents Cleveland, Taft, and Wilson.]
Wilson's Address To Conoress Following Germany's
Renewal Op Submarine War Against Merchant
Ships—And Announcing The Severance Of
(Delivered in Joint Session, February 3, 1917)
[The diplomatic correspondence which had preceded this crisis will be found in the pages ending with 270.]
Gentlemen of the Congress:
The Imperial German Government on the thirty-first of January announced to this Government and to the governments of the other neutral nations that on and after the first day of February, the present month, it would adopt a policy with regard to the use of submarines against all shipping seeking to pass through certain designated areas of the high seas to which it is clearly my duty to call your attention.
Let me remind the Congress that on the eighteenth of April last, in view of the sinking on the twenty-fourth of March of the cross-channel passenger steamer Sussex by a German submarine, without summons or warning, and the consequent loss of the lives of several citizens of the United States who were passengers aboard her, this Government addressed a note to the Imperial German Government in which it made the following declaration:
If it is still the purpose of the Imperial Government to prosecute relentless and indiscriminate warfare against vessels of commerce by the use of submarines without regard to what the Government of the United States must consider the sacred and indisputable rules of international law and the universally recognized dictates of humanity, the Government of the United States is at last forced to the conclusion that there is but one course it can pursue. Unless the Imperial Government should now immediately declare and effect an abandonment of its present methods of submarine warfare against passenger and freight-carrying vessels, the Government of the United States can have no choice but to sever diplomatic relations with the German Empire altogether.
In reply to this declaration the Imperial German Government gave this Government the following assurance:
The German Government is prepared to do its utmost to confine the operations of war for the rest of its duration to the fighting forces of the belligerents, thereby also insuring the freedom of the seas, a principle upon which the German Government believes, now as before, to be in agreement with the Government of the United States.
The German Government, guided by this idea, notifies the Government of the United States that the German naval forces have received the following orders: In accordance with the general principles of visit and search and destruction of merchant vessels recognized by international law, such vessels, both within and without the area declared as naval war zone, shall not be sunk without warning and without saving human lives, unless these ships attempt to escape or offer resistance.