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of Dr. Fuehr, until the breaking off of relations between America and Germany. It concerned itself, however, apart from certain regular literary contributions to certain journals, less with propaganda work than with keeping an eye on the American Press and the development of the news service to and from Germany as well as to South America and Eastern Asia.
POLITICAL EVENTS PRECEDING THE
As I mentioned in the first chapter, it was to be expected that public opinion in America would range itself overwhelmingly on the side of the Entente. As a result of the violation of Belgian neutrality, this happened far in excess of expectation. The violence of the statements of the anti-German party called forth strong replies from those who desired a strict neutrality on the part of the United States. The adherents of the latter party were always stigmatized as pro-Germans, although even the German-Americans never called for anything more than an unconditional neutrality. This also was the aim for which the German policy was working through its representatives in America. We never hoped for anything further.
The waves of excitement ran so high that even the private relations of the adherents of both parties contending suffered. President Wilson, therefore, on the 18th August, 1914, issued a proclamation to the American people which is of special interest because it lays down in a definite form the policy to which he logically and unwaveringly adhered until the rupture.
In this proclamation the following sentences occur: “Every man who really loves America will act and speak in the true spirit of neutrality, which is the spirit of impartiality and fairness and friendliness to all concerned.” And further: “The people of the United
States may be divided in camps of hostile opinion. ... Such divisions among us would be fatal to our peace of mind and might seriously stand in the way of the proper performance of our duty as the one great nation at peace, the one people holding itself ready to play a part of impartial mediation and speak the counsels of peace and accommodation, not as a partisan, but as a friend."
The policy outlined in these quotations from Mr. Wilson's proclamation won the approval of an overwhelming majority of the American people, for even among the supporters of the Entente there was only a small minority who desired an active participation in the war by the United States. Apart from the fact that the traditional American policy seemed to preclude any such intervention in European affairs, it was to the interest of the United States to play with unimpaired power the rôle of Arbiter mundi, when the States of ancient Europe, tired of tearing one another to pieces, at last longed for peace again. America could not but hope that neither of the two warring parties would come out of the war in a dominating position. There is, therefore, a certain modicum of truth in the view frequently expressed in Germany that the United States would in any case finally have entered the war to prevent the so-called “German Peace.” But the question is whether such a peace was possible in face of the superior strength of our enemies. If we had won the first battle of the Marne and had then been prepared to restore Belgium and conclude a moderate peace, it is conceivable that we might have come to terms with England on the basis of a kind of Treaty of Amiens. After the loss of the battle of the Marne a “German Peace” was out of the question. The possibility of such a peace has never recurred. It was therefore necessary for the German policy to strive for a peace by understanding on the basis of the status quo. Just as Frederick the Great defended Prussia's newly won position as a great Power against overwhelming odds, so we were fighting under similar conditions for the maintenance of Germany's position in the world.
Our Government had declared urbi et orbi that they were waging a defensive war, and were therefore obliged to regulate their policy accordingly. If we had desired a peace like that of Hubertusburg we should have won. It is often contended in Germany to-day that it would still have been possible to attain this end. I have struggled for it in America for two and a half years and am as convinced to-day as I was then, that by acquiescing in the policy of the United States we should have obtained a peace which would have met the needs of the German people, if only those who desired the same thing at home had been in a position to carry their wishes through.
In Germany it is also alleged, contrary to my own opinion, that the German people could not have held out if they had not been driven on by the “Will to conquer." I regard this view as an injustice to the German nation. If our home propaganda, instead of continually awakening vain hopes, had insisted on telling the real truth, the German people would have faced danger to the last. We ought to have repeated constantly that our situation was very serious, but that we must clench our teeth, and our Government must be ready to seize the first opportunity to end the defensive war by a corresponding peace.
The controversy about the “German peace" or "peace by negotiation" must be touched on here because it formed the nucleus of the diplomatic struggle in Washington. At the beginning of the war these catchwords had not yet been invented, but their substance even then controlled the situation. The attitude of the American Government and public opinion towards us depended in the first place on whether they thought that we were striving for world-mastery or were waging a defensive war.
Immediately after my return from Europe I called on President Wilson, who had taken the opportunity of the war and the death of his first wife, to withdraw even more than ever from the outer world. He was generally known as the recluse of the White House. He only received people with whom he had political business to settle. Particularly from diplomats and other foreigners Mr. Wilson' kept very aloof, because he was anxious to avoid the appearance of preference or partiality.
After the disillusionment of Versailles it is difficult for a German to form an unbiassed judgment of Mr. Wilson. We must not forget, however, that no serious attempt has ever been made in Germany to get an unprejudiced estimate of Mr. Wilson's personality. In the course of the war he has come to be regarded more and more as unneutral and anti-German, whereas, to the average American public opinion, he appeared in quite a different light. Later, after the defeat of our arms, we hailed Mr. Wilson as the Messiah who was to save Germany and the whole world from dire distress. When, therefore, at Versailles, the President, instead of unfolding and carrying through a far-reaching programme for the general reconstruction of the world, approved all the ultra-chauvinistic and nationalistic mistakes of the European statesmen and proclaimed as the aim of the peace the punishment of Germany, Mr. Wilson was set down in Germany without more ado as a hypocrite.
I think that through all the phases of the war the Ger