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new instructions to the naval forces will also remove in the eyes of the United States Government every obstacle that might stand in the way of the realization of the offer of co-operation contained in the Note of the 23rd July, 1915, towards restoring the freedom of the seas during the war, and they do not doubt that the United States Government will now insist with all possible emphasis on the immediate observation by the British Government of those international rules which were universally accepted before the war, and which are specifically stated in the Notes of the American Government to the British Government of the 28th December, 1914, and the 5th November, 1915. Should it happen that the steps taken by the Government of the United States do not meet with the desired result of insuring recognition of the laws of humanity by all the combatant nations, the German Government would consider themselves faced by a new situation, for which they must reserve for themselves full freedom of decision."
The German Note reached the German Embassy piecemeal, and while the first part was being deciphered, its harsh tone produced in an increasing degree the impression: “Then it is war," which was not relieved until we came to the conclusion of the text.
The attempt made by the Imperial Government to reserve to themselves the right to resume the submarine campaign at a later date was not accepted by Mr. Wilson, and so the difference of opinion remained, which was bound to become a casus belli if we reverted to unrestricted submarine warfare. This reservation led to a further Note from Washington, which I give here:
“The Note of the Imperial German Government under date of May 4th, 1916, has received careful consideration by the Government of the United States. It is especially noted, as indicating the purpose of the Imperial Government as to the future, and that it ‘is prepared to do its utmost to confine the operations of the war for the rest of its duration to the fighting forces of the belligerents,' and that it is determined to impose on all its commanders at sea the limitations of the recognized rules of international law upon which the Government of the United States has insisted. Throughout the months which have elapsed since the Imperial Government announced on February 4th, 1915, its submarine policy, now happily abandoned, the Government of the United States has been constantly guided and restrained by motives of friendship in its patient efforts to bring to an amicable settlement the critical questions arising from that policy. Accepting the Imperial Government's declaration of its abandonment of the policy which has so seriously menaced the good relations between the two countries, the Government of the United States will rely upon a scrupulous execution henceforth of the now altered policy of the Imperial Government, such as will remove the principal danger to an interruption of the good relations existing between the United States and Germany.
“The Government of the United States feels it necessary to state that it takes it for granted that the Imperial German Government does not intend to imply that the maintenance of its newly-announced policy is in any way contingent upon the course or result of diplomatic negotiations between the Government of the United States and any other belligerent Government, notwithstanding the fact that certain passages in the Imperial Government's Note of the 4th instant might appear to be susceptible of that construction. In order, however, to avoid any possible misunderstanding, the Government of the United States notifies the Imperial Government that it cannot for a moment entertain, much less discuss, a saggestion that respect by German naval authorities for the rights of citizens of the United States upon the high seas should in any way or in the slightest degree be made contingent upon the conduct of any other Government affecting the rights of neutrals and non-combatants. Responsibility in such matters is single, not joint; absolute, not relative."
This American Note, however, in no way affected the peaceful conclusion of the negotiations.
As a direct result of the Sussex incident, a step forward was taken in the question of American peace mediation. When I called on Colonel House, during the last days of the crisis, we had a long conversation on this question. As always, Colonel House had used his influence on the side of peace with regard to the Sussex incident. He took this opportunity to convey to me the pleasing news contained in a cablegram from Mr. Gerard, that the German Government were now ready to agree to American mediation.
This cablegram was the outcome of the following facts: Mr. Gerard, on account of his anti-German tendency, was not popular in Berlin. He regarded it as a personal slight that the most important negotiations should have been carried on partly in Washington, and partly by Colonel House in Berlin. The Ambassador wanted, therefore, to use the opportunity of the Sussex incident to assert himself, and expressed a desire to visit G.H.Q. and explain the American point of view in person to the Emperor. On the 1st May, Mr. Gerard was received by the Emperor, in the presence of the Imperial Chancellor, on which occasion he received the assurance contained in his telegram. Karl Helfferich's account in Weltkrieg gives the impression that the question of American mediation was mentioned for the first time on the 1st May. The two journeys of Colonel House, which were of far greater importance than Mr. Gerard's visit to G.H.Q., are not mentioned in the Helfferich account. For the rest I have to rely for my information about events in Germany on this and other publications, in addition to the evidence given before the Commission of the National Assembly. In any case, Colonel House regarded the telegram from Berlin as the sequel of his own negotiations there, which point was placed beyond all doubt by the text of the information he communicated to me. In order to inform myself on my side also as to the attitude of our Government, I sent the following telegram to Berlin, to ascertain whether the information from the American Ambassador was in accordance with the facts:
TELEGRAM IN CIPHER
“Washington, No. 26, 4th May. "House informs me that Gerard has cabled that we would agree to the President's mediation, and that a visit from House to Berlin, with this object, would be welcomed. Nothing known here about solution of Lusitania question. Mediation naturally depends on this running smoothly, which would be most easily assured by cessation of submarine campaign during negotiations."
I received the following reply from the Imperial Chancellor:
TELEGRAM IN CIPHER
“Berlin, 6th May, 1916.
“Reply to telegram No. 26.
“For Your Excellency's information. “We hope that our Note and great concession finally removes cause of mistrust, and opens era of greater mutual confidence. Animosity of public opinion here against Wilson, as result of tone and contents of his Note and impression of parti pris against us, however, so great that he must take open and unmistakable action with regard to England before he would be accepted as unbiassed mediator by German people. To this extent Gerard's telegram is premature. If Wilson neglects to take such action, there is danger that the animosity may become irremediable and possibility of mediation driven into distant future. Smoothing the way for peace, of course, always desired. Action against England, however, seems necessary to encourage conciliatory attitude there, if a peace exclusively favorable to England is to be avoided.
“If it is found impossible to induce England to discuss peace with us, even though unofficially perhaps at first, we shall, as England refuses to return to the provisions of the Declaration of London, be placed in an absolutely free position with regard to our great concession amounting to abandonment of submarine campaign. A visit from House very welcome here at any time.
Karl Helfferich's account confirms the view I held at that time, that our concessions in respect of the submarine campaign were essentially prompted by the hope of mediation by Mr. Wilson. The following words of the Emperor make this plain:
“In politics it is necessary, before all things, to know the other party's point of view; for politics are a question of give and take. Gerard's utterances had made it clear that Wilson was seeking a ladder for re-election. It was better, then, that we should offer him the ladder of