Open main menu

Page:Collier's New Encyclopedia v. 10.djvu/149

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

UNITED STATES

121

UNITED STATES

of those terms. Furthermore, the President wanted to know whether the Chancellor was speaking merely as the mouthpiece of the constituted authorities of the empire who had hitherto conducted the war. The answer to these questions the President declared was vital.

The answer of the German Government was quick in coming. It was dated Oct. 12, and bore the signature of Dr. Solf, the former Colonial Secretary, but for the preceding six days the Imperial Foreign Secretary. The note accepted unequivocally the President's address of Jan. 8 and his subsequent utterances as the bases of peace. It pointed out the changes that had been made in the German Government to bring it closer to the masses, and declared that the Chancellor spoke in the name of the German Government and the German people. As to evacuation, readiness was expressed to agree to this, and it was proposed that a mixed commission be appointed to consider the details.

In the interval between the receipt of the first and second note, Germany, with an almost unbelievable blindness, in view of the fact that she was suing for peace and that her interests lay in conciliating rather than exasperating her enemies, had committed fresh atrocities during her retreat through Belgium and had horrified the Allied and neutral nations by a submarine sinking resembling somewhat the tragedy of the “Lusitania.” The British mail steamer “Leinster” had been torpedoed during a storm in the Irish Sea on Oct. 10 and had gone down in fifteen minutes with a loss of 480 lives, of which 135 were those of women and children.

These devastations and massacres strongly influenced the wording and tenor of the President's second reply. After stating that the matter of arranging the process of evacuation and conditions of an armistice must be left to the judgment of the military advisers of the United States and the Allied Governments, and emphasizing that there must be absolutely satisfactory safeguards and guarantees of the maintenance of the “present military supremacy of the armies of the United States and the Allies in the field,” he gave a solemn warning that no proposition for an armistice would be considered as long as Germany persisted in her illegal and inhuman practices.

“At the very time that the German Government approaches the Government of the United States with proposals of peace, its submarines engaged in sinking passenger ships at sea, and not the ships alone, but the very boats in which the passengers and crews seek to make their way to safety, and in their present enforced withdrawal from Flanders and France, the German armies are pursuing a course of wanton destruction, which has always been regarded as in direct violation of the rules and practices of civilized warfare. Cities and villages, if not destroyed, are being stripped of what they contained not only, but often of their very inhabitants. The nations associated against Germany cannot be expected to agree to a cessation of arms, while acts of inhumanity, spoliation and desolation are being continued, which they justly look upon with horror and with burning hearts.”

The President also directed the attention of the German Government to a sentence that occurred in his address at Mt. Vernon on the preceding July 4, in which as a term of peace was declared necessary, “the destruction of every arbitrary power everywhere that can separately, secretly and of its single choice disturb the peace of the world; or, if it cannot be presently destroyed, at least its reduction to virtual impotency.” This, the President declared, was the kind of power that had hitherto controlled the German people. It was within the power of the German people to alter it, and the whole possibility of securing peace rested upon this being done.

The answer was thoroughly gratifying to this nation. There had been some dissatisfaction with the first reply, but this second one received the heartiest indorsement from all quarters. The Allied nations also gave it their warmest approval.

Germany's third note was dated Oct. 20, and was received in this country on the 22d. It denied the charges of atrocities, or declared that if severities had occurred, they were due to military necessity. It reiterated that the form of the German Government had radically changed, and that the proposals put forth were supported by the approval of an overwhelming majority of the German people. As regards the armistice, it suggested that the “actual standard of power” on both sides in the field was to form the basis for arrangements safeguarding and guaranteeing that standard.

The President's reply to this third note was sent the day after it was officially received. He declared his willingness to submit the proposal for an armistice to the associated powers, but warned Germany, that the only conditions he would feel justified in recommending would be such as would make the renewal of hostilities on the part of Germany impossible. If, moreover, the changes in the German Government were only nominal, not real, and if the United