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Published by COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC INFORMATION, Washington, D. C.
THE “War Message” of President Wilson, delivered before Congress on April 2d,
1 1917, voices the best ideals and aspirations of the American people. It sets forth in language of dignity and moderation, but with unmistakable indignation and emphasis, the grievous wrongs which have made the United States take up arms against Germany. It makes very plain, even to the hitherto unconvinced, why at the present general crisis it is the duty of all good Americans to enter this war, "that the world may be made safe for democracy."
In other words, Mr. Wilson's message is the best possible preparation for all loyal Americans who are studying the causes and justification for the present war, and who are trying to discover the proper mental attitude they themselves should take toward the personal part which they may be called to play in the struggle.
Nevertheless, although the President was speaking in general to all good Americans, he was addressing, for the moment, Congress in particular. Now men at Washington, devoting all their time to public affairs, and most of them favored by long residence there and by special opportunities for information, did not need to be told of the many things which were not so obvious to even very intelligent citizens at home-at least unless the latter were willing to spend considerable time in various forms of investigation. Consequently Mr. Wilson speaks of a good many matters that need amplifying details if they are to be entirely clear, and he draws a number of inferences, very sound indeed, but again sometimes not self-explanatory to busy men and women. Also, here and there, he contrasts the American and Prussian political philosophy and methods of doing things in a way that would become even more convincing if he had been allowed time to enter into specific details. Solemn official promises made only to be broken, conspiracies to burn and blow up American industries, to hamper our manufactures and cripple our Government by strikes and riots, spies in every center of political and industrial activity, plans made on American soil and financed by German funds to dynamite canals, bridges, and munition factories in Canada, invitations to Mexico in times of peace to join with Germany in dismembering our Union, have led people and President alike to see submarine warfare as but a more flagrant expression of a German state policy running amuck in absolute disregard of every sense of national and international morals and decency and callous to the claims of common humanity.
A military autocracy astride the ruins of Europe and dominant on the seas by virtue of an arm that both serves and reveals its ambitions and irresponsibility has forced America to accept its challenge. A new Monroe Doctrine must be defended on the pathways of the seas and in the fields of Flanders if the Western World is to be preserved as the citadel of a free-developing, forward-looking democracy.
This annotated copy of the President's message has been prepared in the hope that it may make clearer the spirit and the facts back of a decision so momentous.
Many of the facts are very familiar to most Americans, but the effort has been to bring together in one place the chief lines of evidence which made Mr. Wilson say that he felt it his duty to urge Congress to declare that “the recent course of the German Government to be in fact nothing less than war against the United States." Very many of the documents quoted in these notes have the highest official validity, and almost none of the facts mentioned are capable of dispute by any fair-minded person.
Taken all in all, these facts, supporting the message, and many more that of course could be added, constitute something like "the case for America against Germany,'' and Americans after examining this case may rest well assured that their cause will be justified by the calm, impartial verdict of later-day history.
The plan and much of the work are due to Prof. William Stearns Davis, of the history department of the University of Minnesota. He was very materially assisted by his colleagues, Prof. C. D. Allin and Dr. Wm. Anderson. Whether this evidence is valid can be tested by anybody with access to a good public librar, for no secret documents have been used. The annotations represent a wholly volunteer service on the part of competent and patriotic scholars.
The Committee on Public Information has had the assistance of the National Board for Historical Service in editing the manuscript.
The Committee believes that pending the appearance of a more elaborate and official Government statement, the publication of this annotated copy of the President's address will serve a real national purpose.
Copies of this document and of other publications may be had free on request.
Guy STANTON FORD,
THE WAR MESSAGE AND FACTS BEHIND IT.
GENTLEMEN OF THE CONGRESS:
I have called the Congress into extraordinary session because there are serious, very serious, choices of policy' to be made, and made immediately, which it is neither right nor constitutionally permissible 2 that I should assume the responsibility of making.
1 There had been only two other periods in the history of the country equally serious_1776 and 1861. Nobody can pretend that there have been any other crises in American history (barring the Revolution and the Civil War) when so much that citi. zens of this country count dear has been at stake. The War of 1812, the Mexican and Spanish Wars, seem as child's play beside the present exigency. Now, as this message makes clear, the very liberties of the world and the possibilities of peaceful democracies are at stake. If Germany should win this war, and thus become supreme on land and sea, the very existence of free democracies would be imperiled.
? President Wilson had the sworn duty to lay the facts before Congress and recommend to it the needful action. The Constitution of the United States prescribes his duties in such emergencies.
It is worthy of note that the Constitution lays this duty and power of declaring war directly upon Congress, and that it can not be evaded by Congressmen by any referendum to the voters, for which not the slightest constitutional provision is made.
Congress performed this duty by voting on the war question as requested. The vote of the Senate was 82 to 6 for war; of the House 373 to 50. Such comparative unanimity upon so momentous a question is almost unparalleled in the history of free nations.
On the 3d of February last I officially laid before you the extraordinary announcement of the Imperial German Government, that on and after the 1st day of February it was its purpose to put aside all restraints of law or of humanity and use its submarines to sink every vessel that sought to approach either the ports of Great Britain and Ireland or the western coasts of Europe or any of the ports controlled by the enemies of Germany within the Mediterranean.3 That had seemed to be the object of the German submarine warfare earlier in the war, but since April of last year the Imperial Government had somewhat restrained the commanders of its undersea craft, in conformity with its promise,