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Page:Collier's New Encyclopedia v. 10.djvu/128

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UNITED STATES

100

UNITED STATES

tion of Belgian neutrality and the atrocities that marked her conduct of the war. This sentiment was heightened by the propaganda that had its center in the German Embassy at Washington and the ever increasing obstruction, arson and outrage in American plants, in the effort to hinder supplies from being shipped overseas. Moreover the utterances of responsible German statesmen as to German aims in the war created the impression that she was seeking the hegemony not only of Europe and Asia but of the world, and that if successful in Europe, the United States might be the next object of attack. It began to be felt that the cause of the Entente was the cause of freedom and of civilization.

That impression became a conviction, when the news came of the sinking of the “Lusitania,” May 7, 1915. The details of that tragedy are narrated elsewhere (see Lusitania) and need only the barest mention here. This great ocean liner was torpedoed without warning off the Old Head of Kinsale on her journey from New York to Liverpool. She carried 1,257 passengers and a crew of 702. She sank in twenty-three minutes, carrying down 1,150, of whom 124 were Americans, including many women and children.

The nation was stunned by the shock. Then came a tremendous outburst of rage and grief, and for a while the country was perilously near the verge of war. It was not the first time that American lives had been lost through submarine operations. One American citizen had perished when the British liner, “Falaba,” had been torpedoed and sunk March 28, 1914, off Milford, England. Two others had been killed when the American ship “Gulflight” was attacked off the Scilly Islands, May 1, 1915. These casualties, however, had been explained by the German Government as due to a mistake in the “Gulflight” ease, while the “Falaba”, it was charged, had tried to escape after having been summoned to stop. Reparation had been promised for the attack on the former. These instances had aroused American indignation, but the feeling occasioned by them was nothing compared to the horror evoked by the wholesale massacre of the “Lusitania's” passengers and crew.

A series of three notes was despatched to the German Government, the first bearing the date of May 13, 1915, declaring that the United States Government expected disavowal, reparation and immediate measures to prevent the repetition of the outrage. The reply of the German Foreign Secretary, Von Jagow, dated May 28, declared that the “Lusitania” was an auxiliary cruiser, that it had guns concealed beneath its decks, that it was transporting Canadian troops and munitions of war, and that the rapidity with which it sank was due to the explosion of the munitions carried. Further correspondence was invited. A second American note, despatched June 9, denied that the Lusitania had carried troops or was armed for offense, and asserted that “whatever be the other facts regarding the ‘Lusitania,’ the principal fact is that a great steamer, primarily and chiefly a conveyance for passengers and carrying more than a thousand souls that had no part or lot in the conduct of the war was torpedoed and sunk without so much as a challenge or a warning, and that men, women and children were sent to their death in circumstances unparalleled in modern warfare.” The note called upon the German Government to adopt such principles in its submarine warfare as should safeguard American lives and American ships. The answer to this note was evasive and unsatisfactory. It elicited from the American Government a third and sharper note, which concluded with the phrase that “repetition by the commanders of German naval vessels of acts in contravention of American rights must be regarded by the Government of the United States as deliberately unfriendly.” The last phrase was a diplomatic way of saying that war would follow.

Pending the interchange of these notes, the German Ambassador, Von Bernstorff, had offered on behalf of his Government to cease submarine warfare, provided that the United States secured certain concessions for Germany from England and should guarantee that vessels coming from American ports should carry no contraband of war. The United States Government refused thus to purchase immunity for its citizens.

The correspondence secured no satisfaction for the “Lusitania” massacre, and even during its continuance, similar attacks were made on the “Nebraskan,” May 25, the “Orduna,” July 9, while on Aug. 19, two American citizens were drowned in the sinking of the British steamer “Arabic.” On Sept. 1, 1915, however, Count von Bernstorff informed Secretary Lansing that passenger liners would not thenceforth be sunk by German submarines without warning and without taking measures to assure the safety of non-combatants, on condition that the steamers would not try to escape or offer resistance. A message of the same tenor was received from Von Jagow on Sept. 21. On Oct. 5, the sinking of the “Arabic” was disavowed by Von Berstorff in the name of his