CHAPTER XXV. THE UNITED STATES AND THE WORLD WAR
But, stated in general terms, they seem the same on both sides. Never yet have the authoritative spokesmen of either side avowed the precise objects which would, if attained, satisfy them and their people that the war had been fought out.
The support of America in the war had long since become the great stake for which both sides in the conflict were playing, and the crisis of the game was at hand. On January 22, 1917, Wilson addressed the Senate and stated the results of his action. The reply of the Germans, he declared, had merely stated their readiness to meet their antagonists in conference to discuss terms of peace; the Allies had detailed more definitely the arrangements, guarantees and acts of reparation which would constitute a satisfactory settlement. He proceeded then to add that the, United States was deeply concerned in the terms of peace which would be made at the close of the conflict, and to enumerate some of those for which Americans would be most insistent: equality of rights among nations; the recognition of the principle that territories should not be handed about from nation to nation without the consent of the inhabitants of the territories; an outlet to the sea for every nation where practicable; the freedom of the seas; and the limitation of armaments. The interchange of notes had made two things clear; that the concern of the United States in the war was intimate, and that the people of this country would know definitely the purposes of the conflict before they decided to enter it.
On January 31, Germany announced an extension of her submarine warfare. A wide area surrounding the British Isles, France, and Italy, and including the greater part of the eastern Mediterranean Sea was declared to be a barred zone. All sea traffic, neutral as well as belligerent, the note warned, would be sunk, except that one American ship would be allowed to pass through the zone each week provided that it followed a designated, narrow lane to the port of Falmouth, England, that it was marked with broad red and white stripes, and carried no contraband. The President promptly broke off relations with Germany, sent the German ambassador home and appeared before Congress to state to that body and to the people the reasons for his decision. He recounted the substance of his earlier correspondence with Germany in regard to submarine warfare and recalled the promise of the German government that merchant vessels would not be sunk without warning and without saving human lives. He declared that the American government had no alternative but to sever relations, although refusing to believe that Germany would ruthlessly use the methods which she threatened, until convinced of her determination by "overt acts." Information of the move made by the United States was sent to American diplomatic representatives in neutral countries with the suggestion that they take similar action. Shortly afterward the President requested Congress to pass legislation enabling him to supply armament and ammunition to merchant vessels, and an overwhelming majority of both houses was ready to accede to the request. A small minority in the Senate, however, was able, under existing rules, to prevent Congressional action, although the President found authority in existing statutes and was able to proceed.
Every important event in March, 1917, tended toward war between the United States and Germany. On the first day of the month the State Department made public a note from the German Secretary of State to the German minister in Mexico which suggested a German-Mexican alliance in case of the entry of the United States into the war. Germany was to contribute financial support to Mexico and the latter was to recover Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, which had been lost to the United States many years before. Knowledge of this intrigue gave a distinct impetus to the war spirit in all parts of the country. On March 5, President Wilson was inaugurated for the second time and took occasion to state again the attitude of the United States toward the war. Although disclaiming any desire for conquest or advantage, and reaffirming the desire of the United States for peace, he expressed the belief that we might be drawn on, by circumstances, to a more active assertion of our rights and a more immediate association with the great struggle. Once more he stated the things for which the United States would stand whether in war or in peace: the interest of all nations in world peace; equality of rights among nations; the principle that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed; the freedom of the seas; and the limitation of armaments. Later in the month information reached America that there had been a revolution in Russia, that the Czar had been compelled to abdicate and that a republican government had been established. The news was gladly heard in the United States as it seemed to presage the overthrow of autocracy everywhere. On March 22, the new Russian government was formally recognized by the United States and later a loan of $100,000,000 was made.