President Wilson And The World War

"The welfare, the happiness, the energy, and the spirit of the men and

women who do the daily work in our mines and factories, on our

railroads, in our offices and ports of trade, on our farms, and on the

sea are the underlying necessity of all prosperity." Thus spoke Woodrow

Wilson during his campaign for election. In this spirit, as President,

he gave the signal for work by summoning Congress in a special session

pril 7, 1913. He invited the cooeperation of all "forward-looking

men" and indicated that he would assume the role of leadership. As an

evidence of his resolve, he appeared before Congress in person to read

his first message, reviving the old custom of Washington and Adams. Then

he let it be known that he would not give his party any rest until it

fulfilled its pledges to the country. When Democratic Senators balked at

tariff reductions, they were sharply informed that the party had

plighted its word and that no excuses or delays would be tolerated.


Financial Measures

Under this spirited leadership Congress went to

work, passing first the Underwood tariff act of 1913, which made a

downward revision in the rates of duty, fixing them on the average about

twenty-six per cent lower than the figures of 1907. The protective

principle was retained, but an effort was made to permit a moderate

element of foreign competition. As a part of the revenue act Congress

levied a tax on incomes as authorized by the sixteenth amendment to the

Constitution. The tax which roused such party passions twenty years

before was now accepted as a matter of course.

Having disposed of the tariff, Congress took up the old and vexatious

currency question and offered a new solution in the form of the federal

reserve law of December, 1913. This measure, one of the most interesting

in the history of federal finance, embraced four leading features. In

the first place, it continued the prohibition on the issuance of notes

by state banks and provided for a national currency. In the second

place, it put the new banking system under the control of a federal

reserve board composed entirely of government officials. To prevent the

growth of a "central money power," it provided, in the third place, for

the creation of twelve federal reserve banks, one in each of twelve

great districts into which the country is divided. All local national

banks were required and certain other banks permitted to become members

of the new system and share in its control. Finally, with a view to

expanding the currency, a step which the Democrats had long urged upon

the country, the issuance of paper money, under definite safeguards, was


Mindful of the agricultural interest, ever dear to the heart of

Jefferson's followers, the Democrats supplemented the reserve law by the

Farm Loan Act of 1916, creating federal agencies to lend money on farm

mortgages at moderate rates of interest. Within a year $20,000,000 had

been lent to farmers, the heaviest borrowing being in nine Western and

Southern states, with Texas in the lead.

Anti-trust Legislation

The tariff and currency laws were followed by

three significant measures relative to trusts. Rejecting utterly the

Progressive doctrine of government regulation, President Wilson

announced that it was the purpose of the Democrats "to destroy monopoly

and maintain competition as the only effective instrument of business

liberty." The first step in this direction, the Clayton Anti-trust Act,

carried into great detail the Sherman law of 1890 forbidding and

penalizing combinations in restraint of interstate and foreign trade. In

every line it revealed a determined effort to tear apart the great

trusts and to put all business on a competitive basis. Its terms were

reinforced in the same year by a law creating a Federal Trade Commission

empowered to inquire into the methods of corporations and lodge

complaints against concerns "using any unfair method of competition." In

only one respect was the severity of the Democratic policy relaxed. An

act of 1918 provided that the Sherman law should not apply to companies

engaged in export trade, the purpose being to encourage large

corporations to enter foreign commerce.

The effect of this whole body of anti-trust legislation, in spite of

much labor on it, remained problematical. Very few combinations were

dissolved as a result of it. Startling investigations were made into

alleged abuses on the part of trusts; but it could hardly be said that

huge business concerns had lost any of their predominance in American


Labor Legislation

By no mere coincidence, the Clayton Anti-trust law

of 1914 made many concessions to organized labor. It declared that "the

labor of a human being is not a commodity or an article of commerce,"

and it exempted unions from prosecution as "combinations in restraint of

trade." It likewise defined and limited the uses which the federal

courts might make of injunctions in labor disputes and guaranteed trial

by jury to those guilty of disobedience (see p. 581).

The Clayton law was followed the next year by the Seamen's Act giving

greater liberty of contract to American sailors and requiring an

improvement of living conditions on shipboard. This was such a drastic

law that shipowners declared themselves unable to meet foreign

competition under its terms, owing to the low labor standards of other


Still more extraordinary than the Seamen's Act was the Adamson law of

1916 fixing a standard eight-hour work-day for trainmen on railroads--a

measure wrung from Congress under a threat of a great strike by the four

Railway Brotherhoods. This act, viewed by union leaders as a triumph,

called forth a bitter denunciation of "trade union domination," but it

was easier to criticize than to find another solution of the problem.

Three other laws enacted during President Wilson's administration were

popular in the labor world. One of them provided compensation for

federal employees injured in the discharge of their duties. Another

prohibited the labor of children under a certain age in the industries

of the nation. A third prescribed for coal miners in Alaska an

eight-hour day and modern safeguards for life and health. There were

positive proofs that organized labor had obtained a large share of power

in the councils of the country.

Federal and State Relations

If the interference of the government

with business and labor represented a departure from the old idea of

"the less government the better," what can be said of a large body of

laws affecting the rights of states? The prohibition of child labor

everywhere was one indication of the new tendency. Mr. Wilson had once

declared such legislation unconstitutional; the Supreme Court declared

it unconstitutional; but Congress, undaunted, carried it into effect

under the guise of a tax on goods made by children below the age limit.

There were other indications of the drift. Large sums of money were

appropriated by Congress in 1916 to assist the states in building and

maintaining highways. The same year the Farm Loan Act projected the

federal government into the sphere of local money lending. In 1917

millions of dollars were granted to states in aid of vocational

education, incidentally imposing uniform standards throughout the

country. Evidently the government was no longer limited to the duties of

the policeman.

The Prohibition Amendment

A still more significant form of

intervention in state affairs was the passage, in December, 1917, of an

amendment to the federal Constitution establishing national prohibition

of the manufacture and sale of intoxicating liquors as beverages. This

was the climax of a historical movement extending over half a century.

In 1872, a National Prohibition party, launched three years before,

nominated its first presidential candidate and inaugurated a campaign of

agitation. Though its vote was never large, the cause for which it

stood found increasing favor among the people. State after state by

popular referendum abolished the liquor traffic within its borders. By

1917 at least thirty-two of the forty-eight were "dry." When the federal

amendment was submitted for approval, the ratification was surprisingly

swift. In a little more than a year, namely, on January 16, 1919, it was

proclaimed. Twelve months later the amendment went into effect.


The Philippines and Porto Rico

Independence for the Philippines and

larger self-government for Porto Rico had been among the policies of the

Democratic party since the campaign of 1900. President Wilson in his

annual messages urged upon Congress more autonomy for the Filipinos and

a definite promise of final independence. The result was the Jones

Organic Act for the Philippines passed in 1916. This measure provided

that the upper as well as the lower house of the Philippine legislature

should be elected by popular vote, and declared it to be the intention

of the United States to grant independence "as soon as a stable

government can be established." This, said President Wilson on signing

the bill, is "a very satisfactory advance in our policy of extending to

them self-government and control of their own affairs." The following

year Congress, yielding to President Wilson's insistence, passed a new

organic act for Porto Rico, making both houses of the legislature

elective and conferring American citizenship upon the inhabitants of the


American Power in the Caribbean

While extending more self-government

to its dominions, the United States enlarged its sphere of influence in

the Caribbean. The supervision of finances in Santo Domingo, inaugurated

in Roosevelt's administration, was transformed into a protectorate under

Wilson. In 1914 dissensions in the republic led to the landing of

American marines to "supervise" the elections. Two years later, an

officer in the American navy, with authority from Washington, placed

the entire republic "in a state of military occupation." He proceeded to

suspend the government and laws of the country, exile the president,

suppress the congress, and substitute American military authority. In

1919 a consulting board of four prominent Dominicans was appointed to

aid the American military governor; but it resigned the next year after

making a plea for the restoration of independence to the republic. For

all practical purposes, it seemed, the sovereignty of Santo Domingo had

been transferred to the United States.

In the neighboring republic of Haiti, a similar state of affairs

existed. In the summer of 1915 a revolution broke out there--one of a

long series beginning in 1804--and our marines were landed to restore

order. Elections were held under the supervision of American officers,

and a treaty was drawn up placing the management of Haitian finances and

the local constabulary under American authority. In taking this action,

our Secretary of State was careful to announce: "The United States

government has no purpose of aggression and is entirely disinterested in

promoting this protectorate." Still it must be said that there were

vigorous protests on the part of natives and American citizens against

the conduct of our agents in the island. In 1921 President Wilson was

considering withdrawal.

In line with American policy in the West Indian waters was the purchase

in 1917 of the Danish Islands just off the coast of Porto Rico. The

strategic position of the islands, especially in relation to Haiti and

Porto Rico, made them an object of American concern as early as 1867,

when a treaty of purchase was negotiated only to be rejected by the

Senate of the United States. In 1902 a second arrangement was made, but

this time it was defeated by the upper house of the Danish parliament.

The third treaty brought an end to fifty years of bargaining and the

Stars and Stripes were raised over St. Croix, St. Thomas, St. John, and

numerous minor islands scattered about in the neighborhood. "It would be

suicidal," commented a New York newspaper, "for America, on the

threshold of a great commercial expansion in South America, to suffer a

Heligoland, or a Gibraltar, or an Aden to be erected by her rivals at

the mouth of her Suez." On the mainland American power was strengthened

by the establishment of a protectorate over Nicaragua in 1916.

Mexican Relations

The extension of American enterprise southward

into Latin America, of which the operations in the Caribbean regions

were merely one phase, naturally carried Americans into Mexico to

develop the natural resources of that country. Under the iron rule of

General Porfirio Diaz, established in 1876 and maintained with only a

short break until 1911, Mexico had become increasingly attractive to our

business men. On the invitation of President Diaz, they had invested

huge sums in Mexican lands, oil fields, and mines, and had laid the

foundations of a new industrial order. The severe regime instituted by

Diaz, however, stirred popular discontent. The peons, or serfs, demanded

the break-up of the great estates, some of which had come down from the

days of Cortez. Their clamor for "the restoration of the land to the

people could not be silenced." In 1911 Diaz was forced to resign and

left the country.

Mexico now slid down the path to disorder. Revolutions and civil

commotions followed in swift succession. A liberal president, Madero,

installed as the successor to Diaz, was deposed in 1913 and brutally

murdered. Huerta, a military adventurer, hailed for a time as another

"strong man," succeeded Madero whose murder he was accused of

instigating. Although Great Britain and nearly all the powers of Europe

accepted the new government as lawful, the United States steadily

withheld recognition. In the meantime Mexico was torn by insurrections

under the leadership of Carranza, a friend of Madero, Villa, a bandit of

generous pretensions, and Zapata, a radical leader of the peons. Without

the support of the United States, Huerta was doomed.

In the summer of 1914, the dictator resigned and fled from the capital,

leaving the field to Carranza. For six years the new president,

recognized by the United States, held a precarious position which he

vigorously strove to strengthen against various revolutionary movements.

At length in 1920, he too was deposed and murdered, and another military

chieftain, Obregon, installed in power.

These events right at our door could not fail to involve the government

of the United States. In the disorders many American citizens lost their

lives. American property was destroyed and land owned by Americans was

confiscated. A new Mexican constitution, in effect nationalizing the

natural resources of the country, struck at the rights of foreign

investors. Moreover the Mexican border was in constant turmoil. Even in

the last days of his administration, Mr. Taft felt compelled to issue a

solemn warning to the Mexican government protesting against the

violation of American rights.

President Wilson, soon after his inauguration, sent a commissioner to

Mexico to inquire into the situation. Although he declared a general

policy of "watchful waiting," he twice came to blows with Mexican

forces. In 1914 some American sailors at Tampico were arrested by a

Mexican officer; the Mexican government, although it immediately

released the men, refused to make the required apology for the incident.

As a result President Wilson ordered the landing of American forces at

Vera Cruz and the occupation of the city. A clash of arms followed in

which several Americans were killed. War seemed inevitable, but at this

juncture the governments of Argentina, Brazil, and Chile tendered their

good offices as mediators. After a few weeks of negotiation, during

which Huerta was forced out of power, American forces were withdrawn

from Vera Cruz and the incident closed.

In 1916 a second break in amicable relations occurred. In the spring of

that year a band of Villa's men raided the town of Columbus, New Mexico,

killing several citizens and committing robberies. A punitive expedition

under the command of General Pershing was quickly sent out to capture

the offenders. Against the protests of President Carranza, American

forces penetrated deeply into Mexico without effecting the object of

the undertaking. This operation lasted until January, 1917, when the

imminence of war with Germany led to the withdrawal of the American

soldiers. Friendly relations were resumed with the Mexican government

and the policy of "watchful waiting" was continued.


The Outbreak of the War

In the opening days of August, 1914, the

age-long jealousies of European nations, sharpened by new imperial

ambitions, broke out in another general conflict such as had shaken the

world in the days of Napoleon. On June 28, the heir to the

Austro-Hungarian throne was assassinated at Serajevo, the capital of

Bosnia, an Austrian province occupied mainly by Serbs. With a view to

stopping Serbian agitation for independence, Austria-Hungary laid the

blame for this incident on the government of Serbia and made humiliating

demands on that country. Germany at once proposed that the issue should

be regarded as "an affair which should be settled solely between

Austria-Hungary and Serbia"; meaning that the small nation should be

left to the tender mercies of a great power. Russia refused to take this

view. Great Britain proposed a settlement by mediation. Germany backed

up Austria to the limit. To use the language of the German authorities:

"We were perfectly aware that a possible warlike attitude of

Austria-Hungary against Serbia might bring Russia upon the field and

that it might therefore involve us in a war, in accordance with our

duties as allies. We could not, however, in these vital interests of

Austria-Hungary which were at stake, advise our ally to take a yielding

attitude not compatible with his dignity nor deny him our assistance."

That made the war inevitable.

Every day of the fateful August, 1914, was crowded with momentous

events. On the 1st, Germany declared war on Russia. On the 2d, the

Germans invaded the little duchy of Luxemburg and notified the King of

Belgium that they were preparing to violate the neutrality of his realm

on their way to Paris. On the same day, Great Britain, anxiously

besought by the French government, promised the aid of the British navy

if German warships made hostile demonstrations in the Channel. August

3d, the German government declared war on France. The following day,

Great Britain demanded of Germany respect for Belgian neutrality and,

failing to receive the guarantee, broke off diplomatic relations. On the

5th, the British prime minister announced that war had opened between

England and Germany. The storm now broke in all its pitiless fury.

The State of American Opinion

Although President Wilson promptly

proclaimed the neutrality of the United States, the sympathies of a

large majority of the American people were without doubt on the side of

Great Britain and France. To them the invasion of the little kingdom of

Belgium and the horrors that accompanied German occupation were odious

in the extreme. Moreover, they regarded the German imperial government

as an autocratic power wielded in the interest of an ambitious military

party. The Kaiser, William II, and the Crown Prince were the symbols of

royal arrogance. On the other hand, many Americans of German descent, in

memory of their ties with the Fatherland, openly sympathized with the

Central Powers; and many Americans of Irish descent, recalling their

long and bitter struggle for home rule in Ireland, would have regarded

British defeat as a merited redress of ancient grievances.

Extremely sensitive to American opinion, but ill informed about it, the

German government soon began systematic efforts to present its cause to

the people of the United States in the most favorable light possible.

Dr. Bernhard Dernburg, the former colonial secretary of the German

empire, was sent to America as a special agent. For months he filled the

newspapers, magazines, and periodicals with interviews, articles, and

notes on the justice of the Teutonic cause. From a press bureau in New

York flowed a stream of pamphlets, leaflets, and cartoons. A magazine,

"The Fatherland," was founded to secure "fair play for Germany and

Austria." Several professors in American universities, who had received

their training in Germany, took up the pen in defense of the Central

Empires. The German language press, without exception it seems, the

National German Alliance, minor German societies, and Lutheran churches

came to the support of the German cause. Even the English language

papers, though generally favorable to the Entente Allies, opened their

columns in the interest of equal justice to the spokesmen for all the

contending powers of Europe.

Before two weeks had elapsed the controversy had become so intense that

President Wilson (August 18, 1914) was moved to caution his countrymen

against falling into angry disputes. "Every man," he said, "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.... We must be impartial in thought as well as in action, must

put a curb upon our sentiments as well as upon every transaction that

might be construed as a preference of one party to the struggle before


The Clash over American Trade

As in the time of the Napoleonic wars,

the conflict in Europe raised fundamental questions respecting rights of

Americans trading with countries at peace as well as those at war. On

this point there existed on August 1, 1914, a fairly definite body of

principles by which nations were bound. Among them the following were of

vital significance. In the first place, it was recognized that an enemy

merchant ship caught on the high seas was a legitimate prize of war

which might be seized and confiscated. In the second place, it was

agreed that "contraband of war" found on an enemy or neutral ship was a

lawful prize; any ship suspected of carrying it was liable to search and

if caught with forbidden goods was subject to seizure. In the third

place, international law prescribed that a peaceful merchant ship,

whether belonging to an enemy or to a neutral country, should not be

destroyed or sunk without provision for the safety of crew and

passengers. In the fourth place, it was understood that a belligerent

had the right, if it could, to blockade the ports of an enemy and

prevent the ingress and egress of all ships; but such a blockade, to be

lawful, had to be effective.

These general principles left undetermined two important matters: "What

is an effective blockade?" and "What is contraband of war?" The task of

answering these questions fell to Great Britain as mistress of the seas.

Although the German submarines made it impossible for her battleships to

maintain a continuous patrol of the waters in front of blockaded ports,

she declared the blockade to be none the less "effective" because her

navy was supreme. As to contraband of war Great Britain put such a broad

interpretation upon the term as to include nearly every important

article of commerce. Early in 1915 she declared even cargoes of grain

and flour to be contraband, defending the action on the ground that the

German government had recently taken possession of all domestic stocks

of corn, wheat, and flour.

A new question arose in connection with American trade with the neutral

countries surrounding Germany. Great Britain early began to intercept

ships carrying oil, gasoline, and copper--all war materials of prime

importance--on the ground that they either were destined ultimately to

Germany or would release goods for sale to Germans. On November 2, 1914,

the English government announced that the Germans wore sowing mines in

open waters and that therefore the whole of the North Sea was a military

zone. Ships bound for Denmark, Norway, and Sweden were ordered to come

by the English Channel for inspection and sailing directions. In effect,

Americans were now licensed by Great Britain to trade in certain

commodities and in certain amounts with neutral countries.

Against these extraordinary measures, the State Department at Washington

lodged pointed objections, saying: "This government is reluctantly

forced to the conclusion that the present policy of His Majesty's

government toward neutral ships and cargoes exceeds the manifest

necessity of a belligerent and constitutes restrictions upon the rights

of American citizens on the high seas, which are not justified by the

rules of international law or required under the principle of


Germany Begins the Submarine Campaign

Germany now announced that, on

and after February 18, 1915, the whole of the English Channel and the

waters around Great Britain would be deemed a war zone and that every

enemy ship found therein would be destroyed. The German decree added

that, as the British admiralty had ordered the use of neutral flags by

English ships in time of distress, neutral vessels would be in danger of

destruction if found in the forbidden area. It was clear that Germany

intended to employ submarines to destroy shipping. A new factor was thus

introduced into naval warfare, one not provided for in the accepted laws

of war. A warship overhauling a merchant vessel could easily take its

crew and passengers on board for safe keeping as prescribed by

international law; but a submarine ordinarily could do nothing of the

sort. Of necessity the lives and the ships of neutrals, as well as of

belligerents, were put in mortal peril. This amazing conduct Germany

justified on the ground that it was mere retaliation against Great

Britain for her violations of international law.

The response of the United States to the ominous German order was swift

and direct. On February 10, 1915, it warned Germany that if her

commanders destroyed American lives and ships in obedience to that

decree, the action would "be very hard indeed to reconcile with the

friendly relations happily subsisting between the two governments." The

American note added that the German imperial government would be held to

"strict accountability" and all necessary steps would be taken to

safeguard American lives and American rights. This was firm and clear

language, but the only response which it evoked from Germany was a

suggestion that, if Great Britain would allow food supplies to pass

through the blockade, the submarine campaign would be dropped.

Violations of American Rights

Meanwhile Germany continued to ravage

shipping on the high seas. On January 28, a German raider sank the

American ship, William P. Frye, in the South Atlantic; on March 28, a

British ship, the Falaba, was sunk by a submarine and many on board,

including an American citizen, were killed; and on April 28, a German

airplane dropped bombs on the American steamer Cushing. On the morning

of May 1, 1915, Americans were astounded to see in the newspapers an

advertisement, signed by the German Imperial Embassy, warning travelers

of the dangers in the war zone and notifying them that any who ventured

on British ships into that area did so at their own risk. On that day,

the Lusitania, a British steamer, sailed from New York for Liverpool.

On May 7, without warning, the ship was struck by two torpedoes and in a

few minutes went down by the bow, carrying to death 1153 persons

including 114 American men, women, and children. A cry of horror ran

through the country. The German papers in America and a few American

people argued that American citizens had been duly warned of the danger

and had deliberately taken their lives into their own hands; but the

terrible deed was almost universally condemned by public opinion.

The Lusitania Notes

On May 14, the Department of State at

Washington made public the first of three famous notes on the

Lusitania case. It solemnly informed the German government that "no

warning that an unlawful and inhumane act will be committed can possibly

be accepted as an excuse or palliation for that act or as an abatement

of the responsibility for its commission." It called upon the German

government to disavow the act, make reparation as far as possible, and

take steps to prevent "the recurrence of anything so obviously

subversive of the principles of warfare." The note closed with a clear

caution to Germany that the government of the United States would not

"omit any word or any act necessary to the performance of its sacred

duty of maintaining the rights of the United States and its citizens and

of safeguarding their free exercise and enjoyment." The die was cast;

but Germany in reply merely temporized.

In a second note, made public on June 11, the position of the United

States was again affirmed. William Jennings Bryan, the Secretary of

State, had resigned because the drift of President Wilson's policy was

not toward mediation but the strict maintenance of American rights, if

need be, by force of arms. The German reply was still evasive and German

naval commanders continued their course of sinking merchant ships. In a

third and final note of July 21, 1915, President Wilson made it clear to

Germany that he meant what he said when he wrote that he would maintain

the rights of American citizens. Finally after much discussion and

shifting about, the German ambassador on September 1, 1915, sent a brief

note to the Secretary of State: "Liners will not be sunk by our

submarines without warning and without safety of the lives of

non-combatants, provided the liners do not try to escape or offer

resistance." Editorially, the New York Times declared: "It is a

triumph not only of diplomacy but of reason, of humanity, of justice,

and of truth." The Secretary of State saw in it "a recognition of the

fundamental principles for which we have contended."

The Presidential Election of 1916

In the midst of this crisis came

the presidential campaign. On the Republican side everything seemed to

depend upon the action of the Progressives. If the breach created in

1912 could be closed, victory was possible; if not, defeat was certain.

A promise of unity lay in the fact that the conventions of the

Republicans and Progressives were held simultaneously in Chicago. The

friends of Roosevelt hoped that both parties would select him as their

candidate; but this hope was not realized. The Republicans chose, and

the Progressives accepted, Charles E. Hughes, an associate justice of

the federal Supreme Court who, as governor of New York, had won a

national reputation by waging war on "machine politicians."

In the face of the clamor for expressions of sympathy with one or the

other of the contending powers of Europe, the Republicans chose a middle

course, declaring that they would uphold all American rights "at home

and abroad, by land and by sea." This sentiment Mr. Hughes echoed in his

acceptance speech. By some it was interpreted to mean a firmer policy in

dealing with Great Britain; by others, a more vigorous handling of the

submarine menace. The Democrats, on their side, renominated President

Wilson by acclamation, reviewed with pride the legislative achievements

of the party, and commended "the splendid diplomatic victories of our

great President who has preserved the vital interests of our government

and its citizens and kept us out of war."

In the election which ensued President Wilson's popular vote exceeded

that cast for Mr. Hughes by more than half a million, while his

electoral vote stood 277 to 254. The result was regarded, and not

without warrant, as a great personal triumph for the President. He had

received the largest vote yet cast for a presidential candidate. The

Progressive party practically disappeared, and the Socialists suffered a

severe set-back, falling far behind the vote of 1912.

President Wilson Urges Peace upon the Warring Nations


convinced that his pacific policies had been profoundly approved by his

countrymen, President Wilson, soon after the election, addressed "peace

notes" to the European belligerents. On December 16, the German Emperor

proposed to the Allied Powers that they enter into peace negotiations, a

suggestion that was treated as a mere political maneuver by the opposing

governments. Two days later President Wilson sent a note to the warring

nations asking them to avow "the terms upon which war might be

concluded." To these notes the Central Powers replied that they were

ready to meet their antagonists in a peace conference; and Allied Powers

answered by presenting certain conditions precedent to a satisfactory

settlement. On January 22, 1917, President Wilson in an address before

the Senate, declared it to be a duty of the United States to take part

in the establishment of a stable peace on the basis of certain

principles. These were, in short: "peace without victory"; the right of

nationalities to freedom and self-government; the independence of

Poland; freedom of the seas; the reduction of armaments; and the

abolition of entangling alliances. The whole world was discussing the

President's remarkable message, when it was dumbfounded to hear, on

January 31, that the German ambassador at Washington had announced the

official renewal of ruthless submarine warfare.


Steps toward War

Three days after the receipt of the news that the

German government intended to return to its former submarine policy,

President Wilson severed diplomatic relations with the German empire. At

the same time he explained to Congress that he desired no conflict with

Germany and would await an "overt act" before taking further steps to

preserve American rights. "God grant," he concluded, "that we may not be

challenged to defend them by acts of willful injustice on the part of

the government of Germany." Yet the challenge came. Between February 26

and April 2, six American merchant vessels were torpedoed, in most cases

without any warning and without regard to the loss of American lives.

President Wilson therefore called upon Congress to answer the German

menace. The reply of Congress on April 6 was a resolution, passed with

only a few dissenting votes, declaring the existence of a state of war

with Germany. Austria-Hungary at once severed diplomatic relations with

the United States; but it was not until December 7 that Congress, acting

on the President's advice, declared war also on that "vassal of the

German government."

American War Aims

In many addresses at the beginning and during the

course of the war, President Wilson stated the purposes which actuated

our government in taking up arms. He first made it clear that it was a

war of self-defense. "The military masters of Germany," he exclaimed,

"denied us the right to be neutral." Proof of that lay on every hand.

Agents of the German imperial government had destroyed American lives

and American property on the high seas. They had filled our communities

with spies. They had planted bombs in ships and munition works. They had

fomented divisions among American citizens.

Though assailed in many ways and compelled to resort to war, the United

States sought no material rewards. "The world must be made safe for

democracy. Its peace must be planted upon the tested foundations of

political liberty. We have no selfish ends to serve. We desire no

conquest, no dominion. We seek no indemnities for ourselves."

In a very remarkable message read to Congress on January 8, 1918,

President Wilson laid down his famous "fourteen points" summarizing the

ideals for which we were fighting. They included open treaties of peace,

openly arrived at; absolute freedom of navigation upon the seas; the

removal, as far as possible, of trade barriers among nations; reduction

of armaments; adjustment of colonial claims in the interest of the

populations concerned; fair and friendly treatment of Russia; the

restoration of Belgium; righting the wrong done to France in 1871 in the

matter of Alsace-Lorraine; adjustment of Italian frontiers along the

lines of nationality; more liberty for the peoples of Austria-Hungary;

the restoration of Serbia and Rumania; the readjustment of the Turkish

Empire; an independent Poland; and an association of nations to afford

mutual guarantees to all states great and small. On a later occasion

President Wilson elaborated the last point, namely, the formation of a

league of nations to guarantee peace and establish justice among the

powers of the world. Democracy, the right of nations to determine their

own fate, a covenant of enduring peace--these were the ideals for which

the American people were to pour out their blood and treasure.

The Selective Draft

The World War became a war of nations. The

powers against which we were arrayed had every able-bodied man in

service and all their resources, human and material, thrown into the

scale. For this reason, President Wilson summoned the whole people of

the United States to make every sacrifice necessary for victory.

Congress by law decreed that the national army should be chosen from all

male citizens and males not enemy aliens who had declared their

intention of becoming citizens. By the first act of May 18, 1917, it

fixed the age limits at twenty-one to thirty-one inclusive. Later, in

August, 1918, it extended them to eighteen and forty-five. From the men

of the first group so enrolled were chosen by lot the soldiers for the

World War who, with the regular army and the national guard, formed the

American Expeditionary Force upholding the American cause on the

battlefields of Europe. "The whole nation," said the President, "must be

a team in which each man shall play the part for which he is best


Liberty Loans and Taxes

In order that the military and naval forces

should be stinted in no respect, the nation was called upon to place its

financial resources at the service of the government. Some urged the

"conscription of wealth as well as men," meaning the support of the war

out of taxes upon great fortunes; but more conservative counsels

prevailed. Four great Liberty Loans were floated, all the agencies of

modern publicity being employed to enlist popular interest. The first

loan had four and a half million subscribers; the fourth more than

twenty million. Combined with loans were heavy taxes. A progressive tax

was laid upon incomes beginning with four per cent on incomes in the

lower ranges and rising to sixty-three per cent of that part of any

income above $2,000,000. A progressive tax was levied upon inheritances.

An excess profits tax was laid upon all corporations and partnerships,

rising in amount to sixty per cent of the net income in excess of

thirty-three per cent on the invested capital. "This," said a

distinguished economist, "is the high-water mark in the history of

taxation. Never before in the annals of civilization has an attempt been

made to take as much as two-thirds of a man's income by taxation."

Mobilizing Material Resources

No stone was left unturned to provide

the arms, munitions, supplies, and transportation required in the

gigantic undertaking. Between the declaration of war and the armistice,

Congress enacted law after law relative to food supplies, raw materials,

railways, mines, ships, forests, and industrial enterprises. No power

over the lives and property of citizens, deemed necessary to the

prosecution of the armed conflict, was withheld from the government. The

farmer's wheat, the housewife's sugar, coal at the mines, labor in the

factories, ships at the wharves, trade with friendly countries, the

railways, banks, stores, private fortunes--all were mobilized and laid

under whatever obligations the government deemed imperative. Never was a

nation more completely devoted to a single cause.

A law of August 10, 1917, gave the President power to fix the prices of

wheat and coal and to take almost any steps necessary to prevent

monopoly and excessive prices. By a series of measures, enlarging the

principles of the shipping act of 1916, ships and shipyards were brought

under public control and the government was empowered to embark upon a

great ship-building program. In December, 1917, the government assumed

for the period of the war the operation of the railways under a

presidential proclamation which was elaborated in March, 1918, by act of

Congress. In the summer of 1918 the express, telephone, and telegraph

business of the entire country passed under government control. By war

risk insurance acts allowances were made for the families of enlisted

men, compensation for injuries was provided, death benefits were

instituted, and a system of national insurance was established in the

interest of the men in service. Never before in the history of the

country had the government taken such a wise and humane view of its

obligations to those who served on the field of battle or on the seas.

The Espionage and Sedition Acts

By the Espionage law of June 15,

1917, and the amending law, known as the Sedition act, passed in May of

the following year, the government was given a drastic power over the

expression of opinion. The first measure penalized those who conveyed

information to a foreign country to be used to the injury of the United

States; those who made false statements designed to interfere with the

military or naval forces of the United States; those who attempted to

stir up insubordination or disloyalty in the army and navy; and those

who willfully obstructed enlistment. The Sedition act was still more

severe and sweeping in its terms. It imposed heavy penalties upon any

person who used "abusive language about the government or institutions

of the country." It authorized the dismissal of any officer of the

government who committed "disloyal acts" or uttered "disloyal language,"

and empowered the Postmaster General to close the mails to persons

violating the law. This measure, prepared by the Department of Justice,

encountered vigorous opposition in the Senate, where twenty-four

Republicans and two Democrats voted against it. Senator Johnson of

California denounced it as a law "to suppress the freedom of the press

in the United States and to prevent any man, no matter who he is, from

expressing legitimate criticism concerning the present government." The

constitutionality of the acts was attacked; but they were sustained by

the Supreme Court and stringently enforced.

Labor and the War

In view of the restlessness of European labor

during the war and especially the proletarian revolution in Russia in

November, 1917, some anxiety was early expressed as to the stand which

organized labor might take in the United States. It was, however, soon

dispelled. Samuel Gompers, speaking for the American Federation of

Labor, declared that "this is labor's war," and pledged the united

support of all the unions. There was some dissent. The Socialist party

denounced the war as a capitalist quarrel; but all the protests combined

were too slight to have much effect. American labor leaders were sent to

Europe to strengthen the wavering ranks of trade unionists in war-worn

England, France, and Italy. Labor was given representation on the

important boards and commissions dealing with industrial questions.

Trade union standards were accepted by the government and generally

applied in industry. The Department of Labor became one of the powerful

war centers of the nation. In a memorable address to the American

Federation of Labor, President Wilson assured the trade unionists that

labor conditions should not be made unduly onerous by the war and

received in return a pledge of loyalty from the Federation. Recognition

of labor's contribution to winning the war was embodied in the treaty of

peace, which provided for a permanent international organization to

promote the world-wide effort of labor to improve social conditions.

"The league of nations has for its object the establishment of universal

peace," runs the preamble to the labor section of the treaty, "and such

a peace can be established only if it is based upon social justice....

The failure of any nation to adopt humane conditions of labor is an

obstacle in the way of other nations which desire to improve the

conditions in their own countries."

The American Navy in the War

As soon as Congress declared war the

fleet was mobilized, American ports were thrown open to the warships of

the Allies, immediate provision was made for increasing the number of

men and ships, and a contingent of war vessels was sent to cooeperate

with the British and French in their life-and-death contest with

submarines. Special effort was made to stimulate the production of

"submarine chasers" and "scout cruisers" to be sent to the danger zone.

Convoys were provided to accompany the transports conveying soldiers to

France. Before the end of the war more than three hundred American

vessels and 75,000 officers and men were operating in European waters.

Though the German fleet failed to come out and challenge the sea power

of the Allies, the battleships of the United States were always ready to

do their full duty in such an event. As things turned out, the service

of the American navy was limited mainly to helping in the campaign that

wore down the submarine menace to Allied shipping.

The War in France

Owing to the peculiar character of the warfare in

France, it required a longer time for American military forces to get

into action; but there was no unnecessary delay. Soon after the

declaration of war, steps were taken to give military assistance to the

Allies. The regular army was enlarged and the troops of the national

guard were brought into national service. On June 13, General John J.

Pershing, chosen head of the American Expeditionary Forces, reached

Paris and began preparations for the arrival of our troops. In June, the

vanguard of the army reached France. A slow and steady stream followed.

As soon as the men enrolled under the draft were ready, it became a

flood. During the period of the war the army was enlarged from about

190,000 men to 3,665,000, of whom more than 2,000,000 were in France

when the armistice was signed.

Although American troops did not take part on a large scale until the

last phase of the war in 1918, several battalions of infantry were in

the trenches by October, 1917, and had their first severe encounter with

the Germans early in November. In January, 1918, they took over a part

of the front line as an American sector. In March, General Pershing

placed our forces at the disposal of General Foch, commander-in-chief of

the Allied armies. The first division, which entered the Montdidier

salient in April, soon was engaged with the enemy, "taking with splendid

dash the town of Cantigny and all other objectives, which were organized

and held steadfastly against vicious counter attacks and galling

artillery fire."

When the Germans launched their grand drives toward the Marne and Paris,

in June and July, 1918, every available man was placed at General Foch's

command. At Belleau Wood, at Chateau-Thierry, and other points along the

deep salient made by the Germans into the French lines, American

soldiers distinguished themselves by heroic action. They also played an

important role in the counter attack that "smashed" the salient and

drove the Germans back.

In September, American troops, with French aid, "wiped out" the German

salient at St. Mihiel. By this time General Pershing was ready for the

great American drive to the northeast in the Argonne forest, while he

also cooeperated with the British in the assault on the Hindenburg line.

In the Meuse-Argonne battle, our soldiers encountered some of the most

severe fighting of the war and pressed forward steadily against the most

stubborn resistance from the enemy. On the 6th of November, reported

General Pershing, "a division of the first corps reached a point on the

Meuse opposite Sedan, twenty-five miles from our line of departure. The

strategical goal which was our highest hope was gained. We had cut the

enemy's main line of communications and nothing but a surrender or an

armistice could save his army from complete disaster." Five days later

the end came. On the morning of November 11, the order to cease firing

went into effect. The German army was in rapid retreat and

demoralization had begun. The Kaiser had abdicated and fled into

Holland. The Hohenzollern dreams of empire were shattered. In the

fifty-second month, the World War, involving nearly every civilized

nation on the globe, was brought to a close. More than 75,000 American

soldiers and sailors had given their lives. More than 250,000 had been

wounded or were missing or in German prison camps.


The Peace Conference

On January 18, 1919, a conference of the Allied

and Associated Powers assembled to pronounce judgment upon the German

empire and its defeated satellites: Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, and

Turkey. It was a moving spectacle. Seventy-two delegates spoke for

thirty-two states. The United States, Great Britain, France, Italy, and

Japan had five delegates each. Belgium, Brazil, and Serbia were each

assigned three. Canada, Australia, South Africa, India, China, Greece,

Hedjaz, Poland, Portugal, Rumania, Siam, and Czechoslovakia were

allotted two apiece. The remaining states of New Zealand, Bolivia, Cuba,

Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Liberia, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru,

and Uruguay each had one delegate. President Wilson spoke in person for

the United States. England, France, and Italy were represented by their

premiers: David Lloyd George, Georges Clemenceau, and Vittorio Orlando.

The Supreme Council

The real work of the settlement was first

committed to a Supreme Council of ten representing the United States,

Great Britain, France, Italy, and Japan. This was later reduced to five

members. Then Japan dropped out and finally Italy, leaving only

President Wilson and the Premiers, Lloyd George and Clemenceau, the

"Big Three," who assumed the burden of mighty decisions. On May 6, their

work was completed and in a secret session of the full conference the

whole treaty of peace was approved, though a few of the powers made

reservations or objections. The next day the treaty was presented to the

Germans who, after prolonged protests, signed on the last day of grace,

June 28. This German treaty was followed by agreements with Austria,

Hungary, Bulgaria, and Turkey. Collectively these great documents formed

the legal basis of the general European settlement.

The Terms of the Settlement

The combined treaties make a huge

volume. The German treaty alone embraces about 80,000 words.

Collectively they cover an immense range of subjects which may be

summarized under five heads: (1) The territorial settlement in Europe;

(2) the destruction of German military power; (3) reparations for

damages done by Germany and her allies; (4) the disposition of German

colonies and protectorates; and (5) the League of Nations.

Germany was reduced by the cession of Alsace-Lorraine to France and the

loss of several other provinces. Austria-Hungary was dissolved and

dismembered. Russia was reduced by the creation of new states on the

west. Bulgaria was stripped of her gains in the recent Balkan wars.

Turkey was dismembered. Nine new independent states were created:

Poland, Finland, Lithuania, Latvia, Esthonia, Ukraine, Czechoslovakia,

Armenia, and Hedjaz. Italy, Greece, Rumania, and Serbia were enlarged by

cessions of territory and Serbia was transformed into the great state of


The destruction of German military power was thorough. The entire navy,

with minor exceptions, was turned over to the Allied and Associated

Powers; Germany's total equipment for the future was limited to six

battleships and six light cruisers, with certain small vessels but no

submarines. The number of enlisted men and officers for the army was

fixed at not more than 100,000; the General Staff was dissolved; and the

manufacture of munitions restricted.

Germany was compelled to accept full responsibility for all damages; to

pay five billion dollars in cash and goods, and to make certain other

payments which might be ordered from time to time by an inter-allied

reparations commission. She was also required to deliver to Belgium,

France, and Italy, millions of tons of coal every year for ten years;

while by way of additional compensation to France the rich coal basin of

the Saar was placed under inter-allied control to be exploited under

French administration for a period of at least fifteen years. Austria

and the other associates of Germany were also laid under heavy

obligations to the victors. Damages done to shipping by submarines and

other vessels were to be paid for on the basis of ton for ton.

The disposition of the German colonies and the old Ottoman empire

presented knotty problems. It was finally agreed that the German

colonies and Turkish provinces which were in a backward stage of

development should be placed under the tutelage of certain powers acting

as "mandatories" holding them in "a sacred trust of civilization." An

exception to the mandatory principle arose in the case of German rights

in Shantung, all of which were transferred directly to Japan. It was

this arrangement that led the Chinese delegation to withhold their

signatures from the treaty.

The League of Nations

High among the purposes which he had in mind

in summoning the nation to arms, President Wilson placed the desire to

put an end to war. All through the United States the people spoke of the

"war to end war." No slogan called forth a deeper response from the

public. The President himself repeatedly declared that a general

association of nations must be formed to guard the peace and protect all

against the ambitions of the few. "As I see it," he said in his address

on opening the Fourth Liberty Loan campaign, "the constitution of the

League of Nations and the clear definition of its objects must be a

part, in a sense the most essential part, of the peace settlement


Nothing was more natural, therefore, than Wilson's insistence at Paris

upon the formation of an international association. Indeed he had gone

to Europe in person largely to accomplish that end. Part One of the

treaty with Germany, the Covenant of the League of Nations, was due to

his labors more than to any other influence. Within the League thus

created were to be embraced all the Allied and Associated Powers and

nearly all the neutrals. By a two-thirds vote of the League Assembly the

excluded nations might be admitted.

The agencies of the League of Nations were to be three in number: (1) a

permanent secretariat located at Geneva; (2) an Assembly consisting of

one delegate from each country, dominion, or self-governing colony

(including Canada, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, and India); (3)

and a Council consisting of representatives of the United States, Great

Britain, France, Italy, and Japan, and four other representatives

selected by the Assembly from time to time.

The duties imposed on the League and the obligations accepted by its

members were numerous and important. The Council was to take steps to

formulate a scheme for the reduction of armaments and to submit a plan

for the establishment of a permanent Court of International Justice. The

members of the League (Article X) were to respect and preserve as

against external aggression the territorial integrity and existing

political independence of all the associated nations. They were to

submit to arbitration or inquiry by the Council all disputes which could

not be adjusted by diplomacy and in no case to resort to war until three

months after the award. Should any member disregard its covenants, its

action would be considered an act of war against the League, which would

accordingly cut off the trade and business of the hostile member and

recommend through the Council to the several associated governments the

military measures to be taken. In case the decision in any arbitration

of a dispute was unanimous, the members of the League affected by it

were to abide by it.

Such was the settlement at Paris and such was the association of nations

formed to promote the peace of the world. They were quickly approved by

most of the powers, and the first Assembly of the League of Nations met

at Geneva late in 1920.

The Treaty in the United States

When the treaty was presented to the

United States Senate for approval, a violent opposition appeared. In

that chamber the Republicans had a slight majority and a two-thirds vote

was necessary for ratification. The sentiment for and against the treaty

ran mainly along party lines; but the Republicans were themselves

divided. The major portion, known as "reservationists," favored

ratification with certain conditions respecting American rights; while a

small though active minority rejected the League of Nations in its

entirety, announcing themselves to be "irreconcilables." The grounds of

this Republican opposition lay partly in the terms of peace imposed on

Germany and partly in the Covenant of the League of Nations. Exception

was taken to the clauses which affected the rights of American citizens

in property involved in the adjustment with Germany, but the burden of

criticism was directed against the League. Article X guaranteeing

against external aggression the political independence and territorial

integrity of the members of the League was subjected to a specially

heavy fire; while the treatment accorded to China and the sections

affecting American internal affairs were likewise attacked as "unjust

and dangerous." As an outcome of their deliberations, the Republicans

proposed a long list of reservations which touched upon many of the

vital parts of the treaty. These were rejected by President Wilson as

amounting in effect to a "nullification of the treaty." As a deadlock

ensued the treaty was definitely rejected, owing to the failure of its

sponsors to secure the requisite two-thirds vote.

The League of Nations in the Campaign of 1920

At this juncture the

presidential campaign of 1920 opened. The Republicans, while condemning

the terms of the proposed League, endorsed the general idea of an

international agreement to prevent war. Their candidate, Senator

Warren G. Harding of Ohio, maintained a similar position without saying

definitely whether the League devised at Paris could be recast in such a

manner as to meet his requirements. The Democrats, on the other hand,

while not opposing limitations clarifying the obligations of the United

States, demanded "the immediate ratification of the treaty without

reservations which would impair its essential integrity." The Democratic

candidate, Governor James M. Cox, of Ohio, announced his firm conviction

that the United States should "go into the League," without closing the

door to mild reservations; he appealed to the country largely on that

issue. The election of Senator Harding, in an extraordinary "landslide,"

coupled with the return of a majority of Republicans to the Senate, made

uncertain American participation in the League of Nations.

The United States and International Entanglements

Whether America

entered the League or not, it could not close its doors to the world and

escape perplexing international complications. It had ever-increasing

financial and commercial connections with all other countries. Our

associates in the recent war were heavily indebted to our government.

The prosperity of American industries depended to a considerable extent

upon the recovery of the impoverished and battle-torn countries of


There were other complications no less specific. The United States was

compelled by force of circumstances to adopt a Russian policy. The

government of the Czar had been overthrown by a liberal revolution,

which in turn had been succeeded by an extreme, communist

"dictatorship." The Bolsheviki, or majority faction of the socialists,

had obtained control of the national council of peasants, workingmen,

and soldiers, called the soviet, and inaugurated a radical regime. They

had made peace with Germany in March, 1918. Thereupon the United States

joined England, France, and Japan in an unofficial war upon them. After

the general settlement at Paris in 1919, our government, while

withdrawing troops from Siberia and Archangel, continued in its refusal

to recognize the Bolshevists or to permit unhampered trade with them.

President Wilson repeatedly denounced them as the enemies of

civilization and undertook to lay down for all countries the principles

which should govern intercourse with Russia.

Further international complications were created in connection with the

World War, wholly apart from the terms of peace or the League of

Nations. The United States had participated in a general European

conflict which changed the boundaries of countries, called into being

new nations, and reduced the power and territories of the vanquished.

Accordingly, it was bound to face the problem of how far it was prepared

to cooeperate with the victors in any settlement of Europe's

difficulties. By no conceivable process, therefore, could America be

disentangled from the web of world affairs. Isolation, if desirable, had

become impossible. Within three hundred years from the founding of the

tiny settlements at Jamestown and Plymouth, America, by virtue of its

institutions, its population, its wealth, and its commerce, had become

first among the nations of the earth. By moral obligations and by

practical interests its fate was thus linked with the destiny of all



The astounding industrial progress that characterized the period

following the Civil War bequeathed to the new generation many perplexing

problems connected with the growth of trusts and railways, the

accumulation of great fortunes, the increase of poverty in the

industrial cities, the exhaustion of the free land, and the acquisition

of dominions in distant seas. As long as there was an abundance of land

in the West any able-bodied man with initiative and industry could

become an independent farmer. People from the cities and immigrants from

Europe had always before them that gateway to property and prosperity.

When the land was all gone, American economic conditions inevitably

became more like those of Europe.

Though the new economic questions had been vigorously debated in many

circles before his day, it was President Roosevelt who first discussed

them continuously from the White House. The natural resources of the

country were being exhausted; he advocated their conservation. Huge

fortunes were being made in business creating inequalities in

opportunity; he favored reducing them by income and inheritance taxes.

Industries were disturbed by strikes; he pressed arbitration upon

capital and labor. The free land was gone; he declared that labor was in

a less favorable position to bargain with capital and therefore should

organize in unions for collective bargaining. There had been wrong-doing

on the part of certain great trusts; those responsible should be


The spirit of reform was abroad in the land. The spoils system was

attacked. It was alleged that the political parties were dominated by

"rings and bosses." The United States Senate was called "a millionaires'

club." Poverty and misery were observed in the cities. State

legislatures and city governments were accused of corruption.

In answer to the charges, remedies were proposed and adopted. Civil

service reform was approved. The Australian ballot, popular election of

Senators, the initiative, referendum, and recall, commission and city

manager plans for cities, public regulation of railways, compensation

for those injured in industries, minimum wages for women and children,

pensions for widows, the control of housing in the cities--these and a

hundred other reforms were adopted and tried out. The national watchword

became: "America, Improve Thyself."

The spirit of reform broke into both political parties. It appeared in

many statutes enacted by Congress under President Taft's leadership. It

disrupted the Republicans temporarily in 1912 when the Progressive party

entered the field. It led the Democratic candidate in that year,

Governor Wilson, to make a "progressive appeal" to the v