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PERMANENT PEACE (PAGES 3–12)
On December 12, 1916, the German Government offered to meet the Entente Allies in a conference to discuss peace. It was generally felt that the proposal was made in the spirit of a victor to the vanquished, and the Allies rejected the offer as a “sham proposal.” On December 18, President Wilson sent an identic note to all the belligerent powers, asking them to state their terms for ending the war and guaranteeing the world against its renewal. The Entente Allies alone replied. A month later, on January 22, 1917, President Wilson addressed the Senate in the remarkable speech we are considering, wherein he declared the conditions on which the United States would give“ its formal and solemn adherence to a league of peace.”
1. All treaties must receive the approval of the Senate before they become effective.
2. This was spoken, of course, before the United States entered the war.
3. In these words President Wilson shows himself to be in accord with the chief ideals of the League to Enforce Peace.
This league was organized in Independence Hall, Philadelphia — the very spot where the United States of America was born - on June 17, 1915. Ex-President William Howard Taft was made the first president of the League. The League at its first meeting adopted the four following proposals :
We believe it to be desirable for the United States to join a league of nations binding the signatories to the following:
First: All justiciable questions arising between the signatory powers, not settled by negotiation, shall, subject to the limitations of treaties, be submitted to a judicial tribunal for hearing and judgment, both upon the merits and upon any issue as to its jurisdiction of the question.
Second: All other questions arising between the signatories and not settled by negotiation shall be submitted to a council of conciliation for hearing, consideration, and recommendation.
Third: The signatory powers shall jointly use forthwith both their economic and military forces against any one of their number that goes to war, or commits acts of hostility, against another of the signatories before any question arising shall be submitted as provided in the foregoing.
Fourth: Conferences between the signatory powers shall be held from time to time to formulate and codify rules of international law, which, unless some signatory shall signify its dissent within a stated period, shall thereafter govern in the decisions of the judicial tribunal mentioned in Article One.
4. According to the theory of the “ balance of power,” no country or group of countries must be allowed to become so strong as to menace the rights of other countries. This principle was in full force during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
5. President Wilson was severely criticized both in Great Britain and in America for the use of this phrase. Do you think he would speak or write these words now?
6. Look up the history of Poland, Alsace-Lorraine, and other countries for examples of people who have been handed about “from sovereignty to sovereignty.” Note the very forceful and effective manner in which President Wilson makes his thought clear.
7. Russia, for example, since the time of Peter the Great, has been seeking “windows to the west.” Serbia and Hungary have been seriously handicapped by difficulty of access to the sea. Can you think of other countries similarly handicapped?
8. The United States was the only great power not involved in the war, and many of the lesser nations of Europe, such as Sweden and Norway, which were nominally neutral, were so involved as to be unable to speak freely.
9. Again and again in his speeches, President Wilson makes it clear that he is speaking for the people of the United States, that he is their mouthpiece. Does the head of an autocracy speak thus?
10. Re-read the Introduction to see how the military alliances of Europe before 1914 were a very potent cause of the war. President Wilson has the faculty of seeing what is the vital issue of the hour, and of so stating this that the people are forced to face it squarely.
11. Especially at the First and Second Hague Peace Conferences in 1899 and 1907.
DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS BROKEN (PAGES 13-18)
Indignant at the refusal of the Entente to consider her peace proposals of December 16, and ignoring President Wilson's efforts to secure a discussion of peace terms, Germany issued a proclamation on January 31, 1917, enlarging the war zone and removing all restrictions on her submarine warfare. The zone then outlined entirely surrounded the British Isles, the Atlantic coast of France and Belgium, and included large areas in the Mediterranean Sea. Said this note, “All ships met within that zone will be sunk.” This breach of the Sussex pledge of May 4, 1916, President Wilson met by breaking off diplomatic relations with Germany, on February 3, 1917. At 2 P. M., on the same day, the President appeared before the assembled Congressmen in the hall of the House of Representatives, and read the words of this carefully prepared address. The address recites in detail the negotiations which led to the giving of the Sussex pledge.
1. The Sussex was a French passenger steamer on its way across the English Channel, from Folkestone, England, to Dieppe, France. It was not armed and was not following the route of the military transports. It was torpedoed without warning. About eighty passengers, including American citizens, were killed or wounded.
2. Many people have severely criticized President Wilson for not taking this form stand much earlier. This was almost a year after the sinking of the Lusitania, and many other, unarmed passenger ships had been sunk in the meantime.
3. This is the so-called Sussex pledge.
4. According to the usages of international intercourse, failure to reply to this diplomatic note leaves it as the accepted interpretation of the previous note of the German Government.
5. This refers to the efforts by Great Britain and France to establish a blockade and prevent supplies of any kind from reaching the Central Powers, and to the determination expressed by the Entente Powers of restoring Alsace-Lorraine to France, freeing the subject peoples of Austria-Hungary, etc.
6. This passage is eminently characteristic of President Wilson. He is very slow to believe that a person or a nation that he has long believed to be an honorable friend is in reality a base traitor.
ARMED NEUTRALITY (PAGES 10-25)
During the month of February the German submarines sank about two hundred ships, of which fifty-one were neutrals. It was obviously sheer folly to send unarmed American vessels 'to meet such risks. On February 26, therefore, President Wilson again addressed Congress, asking for the power to arm American merchant vessels. The measure passed the House of Representatives by the decisive vote of 403 to 13, but a dozen Senators, taking advantage of the rules of the Senate which allowed unlimited debate, refused to permit a vote on the bill before the expiration of Congress at noon on March 4th.
1. The William P. Frye, carrying a cargo of wheat consigned to an English firm, was sunk January 28, 1915, by a German raider, Prinz Eitel Friedrich. After considerable correspondence the German Government, November 29, 1915, agreed to pay damages for the destruction of ship and cargo, and to safeguard the crews before sinking other vessels.
2. President Wilson is constantly referring to himself as the servant of the people. Is this the spirit of democracy?
3. Note the skill with which President Wilson focuses attention on the main point at issue.
4. The closing paragraphs help to raise this address above the level of an ordinary state paper. President Wilson is not satisfied merely to state the facts and ask for the authority he desires. He makes use of the occasion to enforce some of the great ethical principles involved. The address is valuable as showing the growth in the President himself which the war has produced. The President exhausted every honorable means for avoiding war. A careful study of the address will reveal something of the gropings of his own mind, searching for solid ground on which to rest. From a literary viewpoint the address possesses little value; from a historical viewpoint it is invaluable. People and President to a large degree moved at the same pace. A study of the development of President Wilson in this crisis is also a study of the development of the American people.
SECOND INAUGURAL ADDRESS (PAGES 26–31) President Wilson began his second term at noon Sunday, March 4, 1917. The inaugural exercises were held on the following day, at which time this address was delivered.
1. The record to which Mr. Wilson here refers is the record for new legislation affecting the social and industrial life of the nation, such as the Federal Reserve Banking Law, the Farm Loan Banking Law, the Income Tax Law, and numerous others. The pupils might well make a list of the important new legislation in these four years, 1913– 1917. See yearbooks, current histories, and magazine summaries. The Independent, the Outlook, the Review of Reviews, the Literary Digest are all good for this purpose.
2. Look up the difference in meaning between composite and cosmopolitan.
3. Notice how often in these addresses President Wilson repeats this thought.
4. Here the President is half prophet. The American people were not consciously “citizens of the world” on March 4, 1917. The vast majority of them were still inclined to abide by the earlier policy of our Government of avoiding entangling alliances with European Powers. The logic of events, the common suffering of the war, will make us eventually “citizens of the world.”
5. These seven principles are worthy of careful consideration. Do they tally with the President's declarations of policy in his later addresses ?
6. Again the President is urging his oneness with the people of America. What is the source of the figure in this paragraph? Notice how vivid it makes the thought of the speaker.
7. The oath of office as President of the United States, which is administered by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court before the Inaugural Address.
8. Compare with Lincoln's “Gettysburg Address.”
AT WAR WITH GERMANY (PAGES 32-45) German submarines continued to sink ships without warning. American citizens continued to lose their lives while pursuing their rightful business on the high seas. The feeling in America was stirred to a fever pitch by the publication of an intercepted dispatch from the German Foreign Minister Zimmermann to the German Minister in Mexico. This note suggested an offensive and defensive alliance between Mexico and Germany. “Together we will make war and together we will make peace.” The note proposed that the southwestern part of the United States should be Mexico's reward for her part in the war. Mexico was also to try to secure the coöperation of