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Free Press, energetically urge an embargo on all articles of food, by which, as they more or less openly allow it to appear, England would be forced to make peace. But in addition a number of the most bitter opponents of Germany, for example the Philadelphia Inquirer, favor an early embargo for purely material reasons. It is to be expected that this question will be one of the first to come up at the opening of the approaching session of Congress, when the Press polemics of the opponents of the embargo, with the arrière pensée of protecting England's interests and those of her Allies, should reach their climax.”
THE RUPTURE OF DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS
BEFORE I received official notice of the opening of the unrestricted U-boat campaign, I had a further interview with Mr. House, concerning the peace activities of the President, and the telegram describing it which I sent to the Foreign Office, Berlin, is reproduced below:
CIPHER TELEGRAM No. 212 “(Answer to Telegram No. 149 of the 7th January.)
“Washington, January 16th, 1917. “Your Excellency's authority in regard to Mr. House duly availed of. He told me Wilson considered this pronouncement of Imperial Government supremely valuable. As regards further developments of Wilson's efforts for peace, I can say nothing definite. This much only is certain, that at present moment President has no other thought than that of bringing about peace, and will endeavor to achieve this end with the utmost energy and all means in his power. A further pronouncement of Wilson's is expected almost immediately; it will probably take form of a communication to Congress. Apparently it will consist of an appeal to the American people to help him to enforce peace; in any case both he and House praise the Hearst Press article, which is written from that point of view. Whether means adopted will be to place an embargo on all exports is difficult to say. Maybe the threat of an embargo will be enough to force our enemies to a conference.
“From the above it is clear that we cannot afford to have any difficulties over the old U-boat question. As regards the question of armed merchant vessels, I hope to arrive at a modus vivendi. But we must be careful not to act hastily and carelessly, so as not to create conflict before President has taken further steps. Remarkable as this may sound to German ears, Wilson is regarded here very generally as pro-German. His Note was traced to our infuence, and Gerard's speech strengthened this impression. This speech is in accordance with instructions which Mr. Gerard is receiving. Our present enemies have gone literally raving mad, and leave no stone unturned in order to put obstacles in Wilson's way. This explains the attacks against the President, as also the scurrilous attempt engineered by the Republicans to charge the Administration with Stock Exchange speculations. Without any justification, of course, my name also was mentioned in this regard. The German Embassy, as is well known, is held responsible for everything by our enemies in this country.”
At the same time as the above telegram, I wrote the following report describing the prevailing political attitude in Washington:
“Washington, 14th January, 1917. “Ever since the Presidential election the political sitdation here has not changed. Apart from the question of ending the world-war, the public mind has not been constantly or earnestly concerned with any matter.
“Congress has dealt with the customary Budget proposals, and the fruitless negotiations about the Mexican question drag slowly on.
“Meanwhile, the attitude towards ourselves, which after the Sussex incident took a decided turn for the good, has slowly improved. This change in the public temper can be observed on all sides. It is true that it is only very slightly noticeable, if at all, in the Press, and our most rabid opponents are driven, owing to the general improvement in German-Americans' relations, to ever more violent attacks against us. Since President Wilson dispatched his Peace Note, our enemies' fury knows no bounds. Without exaggeration, it can be said that this note voices the spirit of almost the whole American people.
“Only Wall Street and the anti-German ring, as also their friends in the press, are dissatisfied and are endeavoring to put obstacles in the President's way. In these circles, which are always under English influence, the belief has taken root, that Mr. Wilson has fallen under German spell. The well-known anti-German Republican, Senator Lodge, boldly expressed this view in the Senate; but he could not prevent the Senate from voting in favor of Mr. Wilson's Peace Note, by a huge majority.
“The public mind is engaged principally with the question why precisely the President dispatched his note immediately after the German offer of peace. It is wellknown that this Note had been prepared for some time, and would have been sent off at Christmas, quite irrespective of our own proposals, although, in view of Mr. Wilson's inclination to temporize, and to treat all questions somewhat dilatorily, this is by no means certain. I believe that the President's principal motive was his pressing desire to play the rôle of mediator—a prospect which seemed to be imperilled if our enemies agreed to
deal directly with us. This may possibly explain why that particular moment was chosen, for which our enemies regard Mr. Wilson so unfavorably. A cartoon published by that most anti-German paper, the New York Herald, depicts Mr. Wilson's dove of peace as a parrot, faithfully babbling out the German proposals.
“Apart from the choice of this particular moment for its expression, the President's desire to bring about peace is in any case very comprehensible, seeing that he was re-elected principally on the basis of this programme. Furthermore, the Americans are genuinely alarmed by the extension of Japanese power in the Far East, and finally, since our Rumanian victories, Mr. Wilson has ultimately come to the conclusion that our enemies are no longer able to defeat us. One is constantly hearing the opinion expressed, both by members of the Cabinet and other friends of the President, who enjoy his confidence, that neither of the belligerent parties will now be able to achieve a decisive victory, and that further bloodshed is therefore useless.
“As already stated above, the anti-German party is doing its utmost to put every possible obstacle in Mr. Wilson's way, while the Press does not cease from repeating that the Peace Note is to be regarded as a menace against Germany. It is thus hoped to stiffen our enemies' backs, by dazzling them with the expectation of America's entry into the war; much, too, is made of the argument—and this was particularly so in the Senatethat Mr. Wilson's intervention was imperilling the traditional policy of the United States, which rests primarily upon the Monroe Doctrine, and upon the principle of non-interference with European affairs. Finally, a scurrilous attempt has been made by the Republican party to attack Wilson in the flank, by getting a notorious Stock Exchange speculator publicly to proclaim that members