America moves closer to war; Wilson unhappy with conciliatory German Note

Published by carolyn on Fri, 2019-04-05 22:34

Artist's depiction showing a German U-boat surfacing to see to the rescue of passengers and crew of a torpedoed American ship. In the Spring of 1916, Germany agreed not to sink any ship of any country without a prior warning and the safe removal of all aboard. Not all ships carried passengers, of course, and the number varied greatly.

THE FIRST THREE SELECTIONS BELOW FROM THE FATHERLAND of May 10, 1916 show the U.S. entry into the European war becoming increasingly inevitable, but slow in coming due to the Presidential election in November. The country was still not in favor; Wilson needed a good portion of the German vote, but his sympathies were entirely with the Allies. In the fourth and fifth longer articles, from the May 17th issue, we get insight about the very important German Note that came in reply to Secretary of State Lansing's note to Germany of April 19th. Fascinating. The censorship and political persecution back then was even worse than it is today. -cy

vol 4 no. 14     May 10, 1916     Page 6


By Professor Yandell Henderson, of Yale University

AT the very time when President Wilson claims to stand before the world as the upholder of humanity and international law, a fact has come to light which shows him as conniving in an act of the most cold-blooded inhumanity and in an absolute abrogation of the most solemn compact of international law.

This compact is the neutrality and inviolability of the Red Cross, according to the Geneva and Hague conventions.

[…] every civilized Government until now has accepted and supported the right of the people of a neutral nation to send hospital supplies to the sick and wounded in war on both sides without interference.

[…] on some date prior to April 18, the British Government notified the American State Department that Red Cross supplies would no longer be allowed to pass to the Central Powers. In other words, the British Government has issued its order that America, the one great neutral people, shall hereafter be allowed to do its humane work on one side only.


To meet this situation, President Wilson and Secretary Lansing did not threaten to break off diplomatic relations with Great Britain. They did not even send a diplomatic note to Sir Edward Grey supporting their argument with legal precedents and the abstract principles of humanity.

Certainly it was to be expected that at a time when the President is appealing to the American people to support him in his stand for humanity, law and American rights as a neutral, he would immediately have ordered the note of the British Government to be given to the press, so that it might be published in every corner of the land and rouse the conscience of the nation.

Instead of doing this, the American State Department gave nothing to the press.

Meanwhile the President made a speech to the Daughters of the American Revolution in which he painted America as, under his guiding hand, the guardian of the rights of humanity.

Then he went before Congress—none of whose members seems to have been allowed to know of the British order—and in the name of humanity announced in effect the imminence of the entrance of this nation into the war on the side of Great Britain. […] Today the American people are being hoodwinked into war.


I for one propose to put into effect the lessons which the pro-allies have preached, and to do all in my power to awake the mind and conscience of our people to the fact that we are being led daily nearer to war solely because Woodrow Wilson's loud protestations for humanity at last need some act to support them, lest they become absurd. We are being led into war, not for the nation's honor, but to save the President's face.

Page 8

Behind the Scenes at the Capital

English delegates of high political affiliations, and close to the British foreign office, have been calling “socially” on Senators and in the thick of good feelings have categorically asked the question: What is the United States going to do to help “the mother country?” The old slogan, “blood is thicker than water,” has been freely used on Senators by these British emissaries in their social discussions, but generally speaking, I understand, the appeal has not aroused any enthusiastic response.

In this way Washington has begun to get a true inkling of the conditions of the British Empire. It has ascertained that the situation is far more desperate than has been credited. By the admissions of their own agents, England is on the verge of financial collapse, and everything depends on what Uncle Sam will do.

Page 11


FOR the first time since Yorktown a British army has unconditionally surrendered. On April 30th, General Townshend and his thirteen thousand English troops laid down their arms at Kut-el-Amara and gave themselves up en bloc to the Turks who so brilliantly entrapped them. The vanquished army was all that was left of the original expedition which almost half a year ago started out 60,000 strong to capture the ancient city of Bagdad. The loss of General Townshend's force is, irrespective of the military disaster involved, a crushing blow at British prestige not only among the millions of Mohammedans in India but also among her European allies. The newspapers have given but little notice to his brilliant achievement. The names of the victors are unchronicled and presently our “military experts” will prove that in reality the capture of Townshend, four major generals, five hundred and ten officers and their men is a triumph of British skill.

Vol 4 no. 15   May 17, 1916   Page 5


By Prof. Ellery C. Stowell

We take great pleasure in publishing the statement issued by Professor Stowell of Columbia University on the German note. Prof. Stowell is pro-Ally in his sympathies so he cannot be accused of being a German sympathizer. This fact adds weight to his analysis of the situation.

THE gist of the German note is contained in the following paragraph:

“The German Government, guided by this idea, notifies the Government of the United States that German naval forces have received the following orders 'in accordance with the general principles of visit, search and destruction of merchant vessels recognized by international law,' such vessels, both within and without the area declared to be a naval war zone, shall not be sunk without warning, without saving human lives unless the ships attempt to escape or offer resistance.”

Armed Ships Included

Putting a fair and reasonable interpretation upon this statement, we may understand it to mean that the German Government promises the United States that it will observe the recognized principles of international law governing visit, search and the destruction of merchant vessels, whether the vessels be passenger liners or freighters, whether they be neutral or enemy and whether they be found within the war zone surrounding the British Isles or in any other part of the high seas. Nothing is said in regard to whether Germany will consider armed vessels as really included in the class of merchant vessels, but the evident intention of the note to avoid a break with the United States makes it reasonable to assume that armed vessels will be so included, since the United States has already declared that armed vessels cannot be destroyed without warning unless they make use of their armament.

In the concluding paragraph of Secretary [of State] Lansing's note of April 19 he made the statement that “if it is still the purpose of the Imperial German Government to prosecute relentless and indiscriminate warfare against the 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 that it can pursue.

“Unless the Imperial German Government should now and 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.

No Reason for Break Now

But since Germany now gives promise and in the last few days has given evidence of an intention to reform her conduct and to observe the “indisputable rules of international law and the universally recognized dictates of humanity,” there is no reason why we should break with Germany until by some future act she disregards her promise. Furthermore we can have no right to dictate what weapons Germany shall use provided she does not violate international law.

Germany's answer may be considered as a great concession to the United States and as a substantial compliance with the demands of our Government as formulated in the extract of the note of April 19 just quoted.

Unfortunately with that diplomatic density so characteristic of the German diplomacy, von Jagow winds off his note with a statement to the effect that the German Government “does not doubt that the United States will now demand and insist that the British Government shall forthwith observe the rules of international law universally recognized before the war as laid down in the notes presented by the Government of the United States to the British Government Dec. 26, 1914, and Nov. 5, 1915.

“Should the steps taken by the Government of the United States not attain the object of its desire—to have the laws of humanity followed by all belligerent nations—the German Government would then be facing a new situation, in which it must reserve to itself complete liberty of decision.”

Almost Like a Threat

This amounts to serving notice on the United States that the German Government will not continue to observe her agreement unless we take effective measures to compel Great Britain to observe international law and cease from her violations of our neutral rights of commerce. It would have been much wiser if von Jagow had intrusted this matter of compelling Great Britain to respect our neutral rights to America's sense of justice. The unfortunate terms in which the German remarks are couched give them almost the appearance of a threat, and any threat would be certain to arouse the American Government and people. But we should remember in this serious crisis that if peace is to be maintained the German note must prove acceptable to the German people as well as to the American. We must remember the bitter feeling in Germany caused by our unneutral action, for we have been unneutral in permitting Great Britain to disregard our neutral rights of commerce with Germany.

We ought, therefore, as a people believing in that respect for international law which we have professed in all our notes, and recognizing that we have been wrong, to accept the German note for what it is evidently meant to be—a substantial compliance with the demands of the United States in order to prevent a rupture of peace between the two Governments.

If our Government pursues this wise and proper course, we should at once have recourse to effective measures to compel Great Britain to respect our rights and for her part to observe the rules of international law which she has so signally and so persistently ignored. Unless we are ready to take such a course we ought to join England as an honest ally and cease to be a disloyal neutral.

Triumph for International Law

In the introduction and body of the note, leading up to the promise to which we have referred, von Jagow touches upon various other questions, but they are not material to the points at issue. The whole note is a triumph for international law. Germany in the note recognizes as fully as this country ever has done that there are fixed principles of international law governing visit, search and the destruction of merchant vessels, but she contends she was forced to disregard the strict application of these rules by way of reprisals against Great Britain's illegal acts.

Page 8

Behind the Scenes at the Capital

The tenor of the German reply to President Wilson's note on the German submarine campaign […] is far from meeting the expectations of the Administration.

What really was expected … was either that Germany would submit supinely to the demands made upon it for a termination of the entire submarine policy, or else a reply so couched as to warrant the President in giving [German Ambassador to US] Count Bernstorff his papers. […]

Inside information is to the effect that the President on reading the note was bitterly exasperated and was for immediate rupture of relations, but was dissuaded by cabinet members from taking hasty action. It is said that an acrimonious discussion preceded final determination to await the opinion of the country.

* * * *

But whatever diplomatic steps may follow, it is safe to assert that down to the present writing the Administration is determined to pay no attention to the clause in the German reply in which Germany reserves its future decision until we demonstrate that we are actuated by considerations of fair play and will demand that England shall abandon her “ineffective, illegal and indefensible” blockade to starve the German nation into submission. The President was said to have felt personally insulted by the note, and while this state of mind prevails in the White House it is not expected that Britain will be asked to abandon her policy—unless the people themselves become exasperated and demand that we be kept out of the war through the easy avenue of escape provided for us in the German note. But the President's friends say, “We don't intend to let Germany dictate to us,” and there's the hitch. Yet it was the Administration that invited this very proposal. In the note of July 21, 1915, to Germany, Mr. Lansing offered co-operation in the attempt to re-establish the freedom of the seas, no matter by whom violated. […]

The President cannot … permit a personal pique to precipitate us into the European cataclysm. He has neither his cabinet solidly behind him, nor Congress.

* * * *

A man named Whitehouse recently was the guest of honor at the house of a certain Senator. The supper was attended by a number of Senators, including one or more from the Foreign Relations Committee. Whitehouse was formerly private secretary to Premier Asquith and is now a member of Parliament. He told the Senators that Great Britain had touched every available source of revenue and was at the end of her resources to discover new subjects for taxation. The country was being slowly but surely driven into bankruptcy. He then made a strong appeal to his hearers to devise ways and means to come to the aid of “the mother country,” and pictured conditions in Great Britain in such gloomy colors that those present were visibly impressed.

This episode illustrates with what freedom the alien propaganda to rush us into the war is being carried on right under the eyes of the President, and the means used to undermine the sense of duty of our legislators toward their constituents.

* * * *

Almost daily evidence develops of persecutions against German American citizens or German sympathizers. In the Library of Congress, the assistant to the registrar of copyrights, Solberg, has been summarily dismissed from the service by the librarian, Herbert Putnam. The name of the victim is Ernest Bruncken, a well-known writer, for fifty years a resident of the country. He was discharged one day last week for alleged criticism of the President's pro-British policies. The removal has created wide-spread indignation and there may be further developments. Solberg, who reported on the case, is a Norwegian and Putnam is an appointee of Senator Lodge. This case is even less glaring than the arrest of H. B. Stilz while attending the bazaar for the German widows and orphans in Philadelphia, April 28. He was formerly a draughtsman at the Philadelphia navy yard. He wrote a letter to the President criticizing his policies and was promptly dismissed. He then circulated a pamphlet attacking Wilson, and at last accounts was under arrest for this offense. These are plain cases of lèse-Majesté and have only cropped up since Wilson became President.


A few days ago, 500 young members of European populist parties met in Rome at a summit of youth wings organized by Italy's anti-immigrant League party.

Davide Quadri, the League's youth branch international coordinator, welcomed attendees to the summit, telling them his organization's goal was to "Make Europe great again."

Bart Claes of Belgium's Vlaams Belang Jongeren said in his speech that nations must never apologize for their history. Was the AfD's youth group listening?

The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) is banding together with Italy's anti-migrant League — or Lega  to forge a new coalition of populist parties in the European Parliament.

AfD chief Jörg Meuthen made the announcement Monday at a joint press conference with League leader and Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini in Milan.

"We want to reform the European Union and the European parliament, without destroying them. We want to bring radical change," Meuthen said. He added that the new grouping would be known as the European Alliance of Peoples and Nations [EAPN] and would involve at least 10 parties.

The new group will be created after the EP elections of May 26th.

A comment on your title illustration and on the "German Note" in the article, though it is WW2-related: Various sources, e.g. (1)(2)(3)(4) state, that the German submarines no longer could rescue enemy ship crews, after deliberately being attacked by the Allies during a rescue operation to save the ship crew and others, a rescue operation that already lasted for days, with open radio transmissions (calls for help) held in English. Here a translated excerpt of a critical comment on a WW2-related novel, setting the record straight (1):
“[...] Primarily, Buchheim uses the mostly morally and historic-politically [geschichtspolitisch] charged discussion on a Dönitz-Order of September, 1942. Then, the commander of the submarines had forbidden his commandants to take in enemy ship crews.
In the Nuremberg Trial, the Anglo-Saxon prosecutors wanted to twist a rope for Karl Dönitz out of it, in the truest sense of the word, as he would have acted war criminally with this order. However, Dönitz’ instruction immediately resulted from the “Lanconia-affair”, when a German submarine, on September 12, 1942, during the rescue of castaways, despite marking with the red-cross-flag and notwithstanding unencrypted radio transmissions which requested other ships to participate in the salvage operation, was being attacked by a US-bomber. Afterwards, for the sake of safety for his crews, Dönitz forbade such chivalrous-humanitarian assistance services. […]”
There also is a German Metapedia-article on the Laconia Order (2), and a Wikipedia-article (3), and even an English WP-article on the “Laconia Incident” (4), describing the highly questionable warfare of the Allies in this context.
(1) Title of the German article: "Angedachte Greuelszenarien" [it maybe translates to „Thought out Atrocity Scenarios“ or “Invented Atrocity Scenarios”; here, the meaning of “angedacht” is similar to “jdm. etw. andichten” (to impute sb. with sth) resp. similar to “sich etwas ausdenken”]
Zur literarischen und historischen Anatomie von Lothar-Günther Buchheims ‚Boot‘, dessen Verfilmung vor 25 Jahren ein Massenpublikum erreichte”
[“On the literary and historic anatomy of Lothar-Günther Bucheims’ ‘Boot’, [...]”] 41/06 06. Oktober 2006

The Anglos and Americans didn't want to behave honorably in the war; it was a vicious war to the death with them. The Germans were always slow in grasping that, weren't they. They tended to believe the rhetoric.

Do the Germans have their own "George Soros"? (i.e., a billionaire business person or philanthropist willing to bankroll and support a Pro-German movement - just like what George Soros does with his wealth but in reverse?)

Doesn't appear so.