Open main menu

Page:Collier's New Encyclopedia v. 10.djvu/139

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.




trants under the first draft, putting into Class I those who were unmarried or without dependents, and making them the first ones subject to the nation's call. It was believed that by this method, 2,000,000 more men would be made almost immediately available for service.

Notable among the non-military events shortly following the advent of America as a combatant had been the Pope's appeal for peace. This was made public in this country on Aug. 16, 1917. The letter was couched in a benevolent form, and was received with respect because of the position held by the author and the lofty sentiments that inspired it. Pope Benedict, after deploring the horrors of the conflict, suggested as a basis of settlement a decrease of armaments, the freedom of the seas, no indemnity, the evacuation of Belgium, and the restitution of the German colonies. While the appeal was addressed to all the belligerents, the answer of the Entente was embodied in a reply to the letter made by President Wilson on Aug. 27. He pointed out that the Pontiff's proposal practically involved a return to the status quo ante. This, in view of Germany's unrepentance and continuing ambition, would only give that Government time for a recuperation of its strength and renewal of the attack upon civilization. He declared that “we cannot take the word of the present rulers of Germany as a guarantee of anything that will endure unless explicitly supported by such conclusive evidence of the will and purpose of the German people themselves as the other peoples of the world would be justified in accepting.”

The answer was approved heartily by all the nations of the Entente. By the German Government and press it was bitterly denounced as an attempt to drive a wedge between the Government and the people. The replies of the German Powers to the Pope, while sympathetic, were non-committal, and the intervention had no result.

The alertness of the American Secret Service, which had previously caused Germany such discomfiture by the publication of the Zimmermann note, was illustrated anew on Sept. 8, 1917, by the giving to the world of certain telegrams that had been sent in cipher to the Berlin Foreign Office by the German Chargé d'Affaires at Buenos Aires, Argentina. As a demonstration of perfidy and heartlessness, it created an immense sensation. It was dated May 19, 1917, and read:

“This Government has now released German and Austrian ships on which hitherto a guard had been placed. In consequence of the settlement of the Monte (Protegido) case there has been a great change in public feeling. Government will in future only clear Argentine ships as far as Las Palmas. I beg that the small steamers ‘Oran’ and ‘Guazo,’ 31st of January, 300 tons, which are now nearing Bordeaux with a view to change the flag, may be spared if possible or else sunk without a trace being left (spurlos versenkt). Luxburg.”

Other despatches described the Argentine Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs as a “notorious ass and Anglophile.” But it was the “spurlos versenkt” cipher, recommending the butchery if necessary of helpless crews so that their fate might never be known, that stirred the world with indignation. In Argentina the feeling was exceedingly bitter and German shops were wrecked and newspaper offices burned. Luxburg was promptly given his passports by the Argentine Government.

America was chiefly concerned, however, by the fact that the Swedish Legation at Buenos Aires had allowed itself to be used for the transmission of the despatches. This was regarded as a serious breach of neutrality. The Swedish people themselves severely criticised their Government in the matter. The Swedish Government, on Sept. 15, announced that no further messages of any sort would be forwarded for Germany from any point. The German Government on Sept. 17 expressed “keen regret” for the embarrassment that had been caused Sweden by the incident.

On Dec. 7, 1917, the United States declared war on Austria-Hungary. The resolution declaring that a state of war existed between the two countries was passed in the Senate by a unanimous vote and in the House by 363 to 1, the single negative vote being cast by a New York Socialist member. The joint resolution, after declaring that the Imperial and Royal Austro-Hungarian Government had committed repeated acts of war against the Government and the people of the United States of America, followed closely in its phrasing the declaration against Germany. The action was largely formal, for it merely stated what had been actually the fact for months, and involved no special changes in our naval or military preparations. As regards internal relations, the same policy was adopted toward resident Austrian aliens and their property and ships as had previously been pursued toward Germans.

The question naturally arose why war was not declared at the same time on Turkey and Bulgaria, who were Allies of Austria and Germany. Several reasons for the omission were given semi-officially by Government spokesmen. It was