CHAPTER XXIV. WOODROW WILSON
Relations with the Allies, in the meantime, were far from satisfactory. The unprecedented scale on which the war was being fought made huge supplies of munitions, food and raw materials such as copper and cotton absolute necessities. England was able to shut off the direct shipment into Germany of stores having military value, but this advantage was of little use so long as the ports of Holland and the Scandinavian countries were open to the transit of such supplies indirectly to Teutonic soil. When England attempted to regulate and restrict trade with these countries, the United States was the chief sufferer. Ships were held up and their cargoes examined-during 1915, for example, copper valued at $5,500,000 was seized while on the way from the United States to neutral nations. On December 26, 1914, the United States protested against the number of vessels that were stopped, taken into British ports and held, sometimes, for weeks; and in reply England pointed out the large increase in the amount of copper and other materials sent to countries near Germany, and declared that the presumption was strong that these stores were being forwarded to the enemy.
With her navy driven from the seas, Germany began to feel the effects of the blockade, and accordingly turned to the submarine as the hope for victory. On February 4, 1915, Germany declared the English channel and the waters around Great Britain a war zone, in which enemy merchant vessels would be destroyed "even if it may not be possible always to save their crews and passengers." Great Britain replied on March 11 by an order that merchant vessels going into Germany or out of her ports, as well as merchant vessels bound for neutral countries and carrying goods bound for the enemy, must stop at a British or allied port. At these points the cargoes were looked over and any war materials or goods which were regarded as "contraband" were seized. Even though the owners were eventually reimbursed for the cargoes taken, the delay and the interference with trade were burdensome, and the United States accordingly protested that England was establishing an illegal blockade and that the United States would champion the rights of neutrals. Some slight retaliatory legislation aimed at the Allies was passed by Congress, but for the most part interest in this controversy died in the face of the growing irritation with Germany. The German declaration of February 4, 1915, in regard to submarine warfare caused an energetic protest by the United States on the ground that an attack on a vessel made without any determination of its belligerent character and the contraband character of its cargo would be unprecedented in naval warfare. The American note declared Germany would be held to a "strict accountability" for any injury to American lives and property. Nevertheless, the results of the submarine campaign began to appear at once, and in ten weeks sixty-three merchant ships belonging to various nations were sunk, with a loss of 250 lives. On May 7 the United States was astounded to hear that the passenger ship Lusitania had been torpedoed, and 1,153 persons drowned, including 114 Americans. The allied and neutral nations were profoundly stirred, and from that moment there grew an increasing demand in the United States for war with Germany. The President called for a disavowal of the acts by which theLusitania and other vessels had been sunk, all possible reparation, and steps to prevent the recurrence of such deeds.