"Never Before Were More Lies Told.",

"We Do Not Covet Peace At The Cost Of Honor",

"A Hopelessly False Position"

excerpted from the book

The Politics of War

the story of two wars which altered forever the political life of the American republic

by Walter Karp

Franklin Square Press, 1979, paper


"Never Before Were More Lies Told."

"Americans must be taught, said ... Henry Stimson, secretary of war under Taft, to think more of their duties toward the government and less of what they can "get." A drilled and disciplined electorate, submissive toward its rulers, expecting nothing of its government, was the civic condition the Republican Party needed and sought. Nothing in the domestic politics of the United States could possibly bring it about. Only the cataclysm of a major foreign war could undo the deep damage of the preceding ten years. Out of power the Republican oligarchy had few, if any, scruples.(Imperial Germany was not decadent Spain, the right to travel was not a battle cry on a par with "Cuba Libre," the trenches of France were not ninety miles from our shores)It is a measure of how desperate the Republican oligarchy had grown under the impact of defeat that once Wilson opened up the prospect of war Republican leaders were prepared, in the face of overwhelming public sentiment, to muster all their political power to bring war about.

The Republican oligarchs' resolve to push for war was strengthened by support they had not enjoyed in 1898-the major Wall Street capitalists, the futile peace faction in the days of "Cuba Libre." Contemporary Americans believed that Wall Street interests wanted war because only an Allied victory would redeem their holdings in Allied securities. However, since they avidly supported Wilson's war course several months before they invested in British government securities, the true explanation lies elsewhere. In fact their motives were far deeper, far stronger, and far more comprehensive than mere concern for repayment of loans. What they wanted, in essence, was what the Republican oligarchy wanted: the restoration of their former place in the councils of government, the restoration of their lost prestige, and the recovery of their lost political security. In the days of McKinley they had been open partners in rule; within a dozen years they had become mere privileged clients of government, dependent on unreliable politicians and hated by the public at large. As Bourne shrewdly observed in his wartime writings, the financial and industrial magnates had not been hurt financially by the reform era. What they had lost was their place, their legitimacy, and their "glory." They wanted war, said Bourne, because they saw in war the opportunity to become the great captains of an industrial war machine and partners, once in the governance of the country.

As long as Americans remained almost universally opposed to war ... even the most vigorous support of Wilson's diplomacy could not bring about war, for public opinion severely hampered that diplomacy. From the President on down the question every crypto-interventionist faced was how to weaken and nullify that opposition. If straightforward war agitation was impossible, if even straightforward jingoism was ruled out, some other kind of propaganda was needed. The crypto-interventionists found their answer in the relatively safe issue of national defense to which they gave the enticing name of "preparedness ...

... The preparedness movement had nothing to do with the nation's defenses. It was crypto-war agitation intended, as Roosevelt frankly put it to a British correspondent, "to get my fellow countrymen into the proper mental attitude" for war without j actually calling for it openly. The American people, Roosevelt explained, were too timid and pacifistic to tolerate frank talk of intervention. The goal of the movement was put even more graphically by Robert Bacon, a former assistant secretary of state and a Republican leader of the preparedness agitation. "In America," Bacon explained to a Frenchman, "there are 50,000 people who understand the necessity of the United States entering the war immediately on your side. But there are 100,000,000 Americans who have not even thought of it. Our task is to see that the figures are reversed."

Reactionary in its leaders, reactionary in its ultimate goals, the preparedness movement was almost explicitly an organized anti-reform movement, a counterrevolt of the powerful and the privileged "to undo," as California's reform governor Hiram Johnson put it, "the progressive achievements of the past decade." At the movement's peak in 1916, when it had behind it the power, prestige, and eloquence of President Wilson himself, preparedness advocates scarcely bothered to conceal their ultimate political goals. What America needed, they said, was not merely military preparedness but "moral preparedness." This was to be achieved through universal military training, through "patriotic education," through military drill in the public schools. They called for a new militarized polity-a "Prussianized" America ...

... Though universal military training (a virtual code word for war since peacetime conscription had not the slightest chance of being enacted by Congress) Americans would be taught a new "religion of vital patriotism-that is, of consecration to the State." Through proper education and military training, a population of selfish cowards-which was how preparedness agitators commonly described their fellow countrymen-would learn "not to sit supinely under insult, injury and violation of right and law," meaning the right to travel on belligerent merchantmen; learn not to sing disgraceful songs such as the all-too-popular "I Didn't Raise My Boy to Be a Soldier"; learn that opposition to war meant "national loss of self-respect"; learn through the "discipline of the camp" and the schoolhouse drill period "what it means to be an American"; learn, last but not least, that "we have a part to play in the redemption of humanity and the future organization of the world." Openly appealing to every reactionary element in the country, to every businessman frightened of industrial unrest, to every machine politician hoping to revamp his machine, to every infatuated upper class anglophile, the preparedness propaganda held forth the promise of a new nation, conceived in "preparedness" (meaning war), whose citizenry, radically transformed, would ask for nothing from their government save the chance to serve its international goals.

The first theme of the agitation was a frenzied propaganda of bogies and alarms. Germany, according to the "prepareders," was bent on world domination. Germany, at war's end, would turn next on America. Dire peril lay ahead. "Wake up, America!" cried the agitators. The Hun was on the march; America lay supine. Our navy was worthless, our army a nullity, our coastal defenses mere toys. The public air suddenly rang with talk of "landing parties" and "surprise attacks." Amphibious landings across three thousand miles of ocean suddenly became a commonplace military feat, which men wholly ignorant of military matters described with factitious precision. James Beck, for example, a former assistant U.S. attorney general and a leading Republican interventionist, solemnly assured Philadelphians that it would take Germany exactly sixteen days to land precisely 387,000 men on our shores. No absurdity was too great for the crypto-interventionists to propose. In the summer of 1915 Americans learned for the first time that they were virtually doomed by 1921 to become "another Belgium," as if nothing were more plausible than a comparison between a tiny country abutting Germany and a nation of 100 million a broad ocean away. No absurdity of the preparedness agitation, however, was too great for the American press to swallow. Big city newspapers took up the preparedness line with obliging fervor. In vain did reputable military men point out the fatuity of the alarmist talk and the military ignorance of the alarmists. When a genuine military expert stands in the way of political propaganda, the party press can make itself L remarkably deaf to eminent generals.

While the press made Hunnish designs and American weakness the daily fare of millions of readers, a platoon of eager scribblers turned the propaganda into book-length treatises: Are We Americans Cowards or Fools?; America and the German Peril; The Game of Empires: A Warning to the United States (preface by Roosevelt); Are We Ready? (preface by General Wood); The Conquest of America: USA, AD 1921. In America Fallen: A Sequel to the European War, the author, an editor of Scientific American, described how a German armada would capture Philadelphia and Washington and force a hapless United States to pay a $20 billion indemnity to retrieve them. Like so many other preparedness effusions, it was bought up and distributed free by the Navy League. In Defenseless America, Hudson Maxim, brother of the Maxim gun's inventor, provided an enterprising New York film company with subject matter for a sensational movie, The Battle Cry of Peace. Opening in New York City on September 9, 1915, the movie showed in alluring detail a sinister, Hunnish-looking enemy laying waste to New York. True to the crypto-interventionist pretense that they were trying only to preserve peace, the movie was advertised in the press as "A Call to Arms-Against War." Day after day, week after week, for months the deluge of alarmist propaganda poured over the country from New York City. "Not a mail pouch is opened in a second-class post office," said a Texas member of Congress, "that does not carry hundreds of letters, circulars, magazines and newspapers urging us to hurry up our preparations before the bogie man gets us."

By midsummer the crypto-interventionists, taking advantage of the feminist movement, began recruiting their own wives and daughters for the preparedness cause. On July 10, for example, the Navy League created a "woman's section" of "prominent women" who were to organize "patriotic national defense pageants" ...

Yet for all the noise and the shouting, for all the shows, pageants, and "prominent women," the preparedness movement made few converts to preparedness. Confined chiefly to lower Manhattan and upper Fifth Avenue, the handiwork of stand-pat Republicans and corporate "patriots for profit (as the movement's Wall Street adherents were widely known), the movement utterly lacked popular support. That Germany had either the will or the means to invade America at the close of a supremely exhausting war was, as an Ohio legislator put it, "the most preposterous proposition that was ever exploited." Most Americans agreed. The preparedness agitators, however, scarcely expected to convince Americans that Germany was soon to invade us. Their propaganda had quite other aims in mind. Under the pretense of discussing national defense, they were trying, first, to label Germany as America's endemic enemy, and the Allies, by implication, as America's first line of defense. Far more important, the crypto-interventionists were trying to change the question before the nation. Men who tried to discuss the issues of war and peace were to be compelled in the preparedness frenzy to discuss questions of national defense instead. Men who criticized Wilson's diplomacy-Bryan most conspicuously themselves forced to defend unpreparedness and suffer ready defamation for trying.

To bring America into the war, truth had to be defamed, honest critics silenced, and free speech suppressed. The crypto-interventionists were equal to the task. "Preparedness" had as many heads as the Hydra. In the summer of the Lusitania crisis, the preparedness agitators added a second theme to their original cry for military defense against Teutonic invasion. They discovered "Americanism" and portentously warned the country that America was not a nation at all but merely a weak, disunited hodge-podge of unreliable immigrants.

The reformers in the country were almost universally opposed to a military buildup. They saw in preparedness not so much a movement for war (which still seemed remote to most reformers) as a movement led by their inveterate political enemies to defeat reform. "War preparations and emphasis upon militarism," as Frederick Howe put it, "is national suicide to all the things I am interested in."

Wilson's press outlet, the New York World, encouraged the preparedness agitators with inspired stories from the White House: The President favored a navy second to none; the President was personally drawing up military defense plans; the President intended to make national defense the main theme of his December message to Congress. At the Governors' Conference in August, Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels interrupted the usual discussion of state-level affairs by calling for a greatly enlarged navy. At the end of the conference, a half dozen governors, taking the obvious cue from the White House, rose up to urge their fellow governors to return home and organize "a propaganda for preparedness." In the crypto-interventionist agitation to get Americans into "the proper mental attitude" for war, the hand of the President was everywhere; only his powerful voice had yet to be heard."

Like his fellow proponents of war, Wilson, too, was determined to defame the foreign-born in order to silence all who dared speak for the overwhelming majority of Americans.

On Sunday, August 15, the World spread across its front page the first of its five-installment report on Germany's "elaborate scheme to control and influence the press of the United States." Editors who took their war news and opinions directly from England professed horror at Germany's nefarious designs. On August 16, the World, determined to portray the subventions as a limitless plot, branded them a "Conspiracy Against the United States." Other New York newspapers took up the cry. The Sun called the subventions "sowing the seeds of treason." The Herald divined in them "a plot to ruin America." The Evening Sun likened Germany's propaganda efforts to "political assassination," the assassination by just criticism of President Wilson. The Evening World called it a "conspiracy on a colossal scale .

For outspoken native Americans there was no safety either. In a vicious organized whispering campaign launched in August, Georgia's Senator Smith was accused of being on the German government payroll. The senator had dared to assert in public that the British blockade violated international law. When Bryan criticized 'Wilson's views on preparedness, the entire party press savagely assailed the former secretary of state for being "un-American." Stunned by the charge, Bryan asked in a press statement, "When did it become unpatriotic for a citizen to differ from a President?" The answer to that was simple, too. Ever since the powerful and the privileged had united behind Wilson to drag an unwilling people into an unnecessary war.

Determined to break the "bonds" of American antiwar sentiment, Wilson decided in early October that it was politically safe to take public charge of the crypto-war agitation. On October 6, the President, in an address before the Civilian Advisory Board of the Navy, came out strongly for a military buildup; overwhelming public sentiment (which was nonexistent) had persuaded him: "I think the whole Nation is convinced that we ought to be prepared, not for war, but for defense, and very adequately prepared." America needed a mighty military establishment, said Wilson, to "command the respect of the world" and safeguard America's "mission."

... Nor did the President neglect the new repressive theme of / "Americanism." Five days after his preparedness speech 'Wilson, in an address to the Daughters of the American Revolution, called upon "loyal" Americans to assail all "disloyal" critics of his foreign policy. "Hazing," Wilson slyly pointed out, was an old college custom and an excellent one for adults to practice. And who was to be "hazed" by the "loyal" at Wilson's behest? "Everybody," said the President, "who is not to the very core of his heart an American." In detecting the disloyal "heart," Wilson advised the D.A.R., there was one acid test to apply: "Is it America first or is it not?" A President who put both the interests of a belligerent and his own ambitions ahead of the good of America, was calling for vigilante action against anyone who dared say so-in the name of "America first."

On November 4, the President, in a major address, made a still more urgent appeal for preparedness and vigilante "Americanism."

... "Unfortunately, warned the President, "voices have been raised in America" which disagreed, voices "which spoke alien sympathies." He called upon "the Nation" to "rebuke" all such people and drown out their voices "in the deep unison of a common, unhesitating national feeling." Having once again invited the war faction to browbeat his critics, Wilson concluded, "Let us lift our eyes to the great tracts of life yet to be conquered in the interests of a righteous peace."

'Ugly and repressive though the atmosphere was growing, "great tracts of life" in America remained stubbornly unconquered by Wilson and the war party. The President's speech aroused a storm of opposition around the country. In mass meetings and angry editorials, reformers of every kind thundered their opposition to preparedness. Farm organizations, almost unanimously, registered their adamant opposition to a military buildup.

... The public outcry drove home a painful truth to Wilson. Despite the "hazing" and "rebukes," despite the risk, as Senator La Follette said, of being denounced "as a fool, a coward or a traitor," liberty in America still menaced the President's ambitions. Too many Americans were still unafraid to speak in behalf of the great majority of the American people. Wilson felt forced to take sterner measures. What those measures should be Wilson outlined on December 7, 1915, in his annual message to Congress, one of the most astonishing speeches ever delivered by an American President. Its sole theme, as the World had rightly reported, was preparedness, which now embraced, according to the President, not merely "military efficiency and security" but "industrial and vocational education" as well. Once again Wilson took pains to assure progressives that he had in mind "no thought of any immediate or particular danger arising out of our relations with other nations. We are at peace with all the nations of the world." The real danger to America was not military but political, not external but internal.

"The gravest threats against our national peace and safety have been uttered within our own borders. There are citizens of the United States, I blush to admit, born under other flags... who have poured the poison of disloyalty into the very arteries of our national life." Yet the government, said the President, stood by helpless to deal with those threatening the nation's security from within. He wanted Congress to pass legislation to enable him to "close down over them at once." On December 7, 1915, one hundred fifteen years after the infamous Sedition Act had helped destroy the Federalist Party forever, Woodrow Wilson was suggesting n vain) that Congress make criticism of his foreign policy a criminal act."


"We Do Not Covet Peace At The Cost Of Honor"

Not everyone was deceived, for common sense is not so easily confounded. On January 5, 1916, Wesley Jones of Washington took the floor of the Senate to point out that the President's actions were not responsible for peace and to suggest, albeit delicately, that his intentions might be other than pacific. "The President," said Senator Jones, "has been highly commended for keeping us out of the war in Europe. I want to give him all the praise he deserves, but it has not been a question of keeping us out of this struggle. The people have not wanted to get into it. The question has been not to lead us into it, and I beseech the President now to be careful, to proceed slowly, to make no harsh or arbitrary demands, to keep in view the rights of 99,999,000 people at home rather than of the 1,000 reckless, inconsiderate and unpatriotic citizens who insist on going abroad in belligerent ships and that he do not lead us into a position that means trouble or humiliation." The American traveler on a belligerent ship, said Senator Jones, "is entitled to no consideration whatever, and for this country to become embroiled in this trouble on his account would be a colossal crime against humanity"

Unfortunately for the peace of the country, Senator Jones was a member of a congressional minority, an ill-sorted collection of insurgent Republicans, progressive reformers, and rural Democrats, for the most part, who genuinely believed that American intervention in the European war was suicidally insane ...

... Wilson was understandably "disturbed" that he still had strong vocal critics in Congress, for his war course depended on the American people's enjoying virtually no voice whatever in the councils of government.

...Behind the silence lay an elementary fact of congressional politics. The prowar legislators simply could not say in the free political space of a congressional chamber what they said with impunity outside it. The crypto-war propaganda consisted chiefly of lies and f distortions. Wilson's supporters triumphed over his critics chiefly L by slandering their character, impugning their patriotism, and drowning them out "in the deep unison of a common, unhesitating" contempt for the "national feeling." The free and formal atmosphere of parliamentary debate, however, placed the crypto-interventionist majority at a severe disadvantage. Outside Congress they could defend the British blockade, for example, by praising the idealism of the Allies. To do so inside Congress was grossly unneutral not discreet," as one Ohio Republican admonished a pro-British colleague. Outside Congress, the interventionists could shout "America first" at a critic of 'Wilson's partiality to Britain. Inside Congress that lying retort invited the all-too-obvious rejoinder that those who shouted "America first" really meant "England first." Outside Congress, the prowar faction could call 'Wilson's defense of safe travel a sacred obligation of "national honor" and defame skeptics as "peace-at-any-price men." On the floor of a legislative chamber, however, it was not so easy to answer a legislator who asked-as blind Senator Thomas Gore of Oklahoma asked in early January-why a "single citizen should be allowed to run the risk of drenching this Nation in blood merely in order that he may travel upon a belligerent rather than a neutral vessel." And of course it was forbidden to impugn the motives of a fellow legislator. Wilson's policy in "the European matter" simply did not bear up under calm scrutiny in a free political atmosphere. The President's legislative understrappers prudently preferred not to discuss it at all.

What was true of Wilson's foreign policy was equally true of the crypto-war agitation in general. Outside Congress it was easy enough to sound the alarm about German invasions of New York. Inside Congress, however, antipreparedness legislators readily mocked such preposterous bogies and had no trouble deriding the dubious "patriotism of the Dupont Powder Company" and all the other profiteers for preparedness. Outside Congress it was, easy enough to impugn the patriotism of "hyphenated Americans." However, when Augustus Gardner did so on the floor of the House in early January his fellow Republicans soundly rebuked him for using "intemperate and reckless" language and for trying to "fan the flame of racial hatred." The political atmosphere inside Congress and outside it were as distinctive as two different countries. Whatever prowar legislators did outside the legislative chambers, in Congress assembled they dared do no more than give the President as free a hand as possible until he succeeded in making war seem "inevitable" to the American people. Until then they preferred keeping Congress out of European affairs entirely.

... the House of Representatives ... had demonstrated - in fact, for the first time - that not even overwhelming public sentiment could compel a majority of House members to hamper him in any way regardless of how dubious the position he took, regardless of how questionable his motives had become, regardless of how modest, how sensible, and how reasonable a popular gesture of dissent might be.

... on February 25 [1914] [the Senate] took an unusual step to silence its small but redoubtable antiwar minority. Faced with a travel warning introduced that day by Senator Gore, the Senate voted to go into continuous legislative session, a parliamentary device by which each succeeding day was deemed to be February 25, thereby preventing antiwar senators from introducing the travel question into the business of the "day," which was to last until March 2. "Every effort was made to prevent discussion" of armed merchantmen, said a Republican senator shortly after the gag was removed. Determined to protect a vulnerable President from public opinion and those elected officials who still gave it voice, the war party in Congress had thrown up a cordon of silence around Wilson while the party press prated noisily about "Germans" in Congress, "conspiracy" against the President, and "America First."

"Divided counsels in Congress" were not to be borne; unanimity of opinion was essential. But how does a parliamentary body demonstrate unanimity by a vote that could not possibly be unanimous? There was only one way to do so: by voting its opinion that it had no right to an opinion-the unanimity of silence. This was well understood by everyone in Congress. What Wilson wanted, said an angry Senator La Follette, was "nothing less than a complete denial of any intent or purpose to express an opinion or offer advice." The President, said La Follette, wanted Congress to "unconditionally surrender all right to voice the popular will," to grant him "unprecedented" and unconstitutional "one-man power" over foreign policy while Congress "was to keep silent in all that pertains to foreign affairs."

On the face of it, the Senate should have risen up in fury against Wilson's arrogant presumption. A strong voice in foreign affairs had been the Senate's jealously guarded prerogative since the founding of the Republic. In the past, when it chose to assert its power, the Senate had not scrupled to entrench upon even the rightful diplomatic prerogatives of a President. It would soon do so again-at the expense of Woodrow Wilson. On the face of it, Senator Lodge should have led the revolt against Wilson's unprecedented claims, for no senator was more zealous than Lodge in asserting the Senate's prerogatives in foreign affairs. He had done so in the past and he would do so again-at the expense of Woodrow Wilson. For the present, however, the war party in Congress could ill afford constitutional scruples. Extraordinary as Wilson's claims were, they perfectly suited the war party's extraordinary needs. To bring America into the war the popular will had) to go unvoiced in Congress; congressional criticism of Wilson's policies had to be branded as improper "interference" with a President. To bring a people who opposed war into war, Wilson had to be given exactly what he asked for-complete and unhampered control over foreign affairs. Such being the need of the hour, the war party in Congress, led by Lodge himself, agreed at once to declare that Congress had no right to a voice in the European matter.

The parliamentary procedure for doing so was to vote not on the merits of a travel resolution-McLemore's in the House, Gore's in the Senate-but on a motion to table it, a vote, that is, which registered the required opinion that Congress considered itself without right to an opinion. The motion to table had the additional merit of permitting no prior debate. On March 2, the Senate, in an extraordinary act of voluntary self-abasement, agreed to turn itself temporarily into an impotent self-gagged body.

If opponents of war were angry, the crypto-interventionists were elated. According to the New York Times, the vote demonstrated that there were only fourteen "Germans" in the Senate, a "sorry lot," and that "there is still an America, instinct with national patriotism, hot to resent and prevent the sacrifice of the least tittle of American rights, calm and majestically strong in upholding the President who is striving in stormy times to maintain peace but with no diminution of national right, no stain upon national honor."

For months, prowar spokesmen had been insisting that "loyalty" to the president was the paramount duty of a patriot, that criticizing Wilson in the European matter was "un-American" and "pro-German," that a President who was patently borrowing trouble was striving nobly to keep America out of trouble, that subservience to Britain proved devotion to "America first." Until Congress voted, those propositions had been put forth by agitators, the party press, and individual politicians. Now, for the first time, by formal vote, the Congress of the United States had lent its immense authority to the crypto-war propaganda.

... When Congress rallied around Wilson, he was weaker and more vulnerable than he had been since the outbreak of the European war. Far from bowing to the President's power, Congress had restored his power and increased it greatly, while refurbishing his tarnished reputation and saving him, in point of fact, from certain defeat in the forthcoming election. At a moment of dire peril for Wilson and his war course, Congress, dominated by the war party, had rescued both.


"A Hopelessly False Position"

On March 24, a German submarine commander, prowling in the English Channel, spied through his periscope a somewhat ambiguous-looking enemy steamer. Possibly a small passenger ship, it lacked, as he noted in his log, the usual passenger ship markings. Painted black, with a bridge resembling that of a warship, it was sailing outside the routes prescribed by the British Admiralty for passenger vessels. The German commander, probably eager for a score, decided it was an enemy mine layer and sent a torpedo into its hull. Although damaged the ship was towed safely to port. Unfortunately it was not a mine layer. It was the unarmed French Channel steamer Sussex, bound for Dieppe with 325 passengers including 25 Americans, four of whom were injured in the attack. As a sensational outrage the Sussex affray was scarcely in the Lusitanian's class. It became clear soon enough that a mistake had been made. To Americans who thought as did the senator from Washington that it was a "colossal crime against humanity" for America to go to war for the sake of a few heedless travelers, the attack was a further argument for warning Americans that they sailed at their own risk on belligerent ships in the war zone. Had 'Wilson wished to avoid a major crisis he could have demanded-and he certainly would have gotten-a German disavowal of the sinking and a legal indemnity for the four injured Americans.

Wilson had no wish to avoid a major crisis. He was intent upon precipitating one.

To sound out his cabinet members, Wilson read them his draft note to Germany on the pretense that it was merely a possibility he was putting forward for discussion. Cabinet members were cautioned to tell nobody about it. Speaking on April 13 at a Jefferson Day dinner, Wilson proclaimed to a throng of Democratic Party notables that "the interests of America are coincident with the interests of mankind." By now even the dimmest party fugleman could grasp that the President was referring to the sacred rights of neutral travelers and German submarine warfare. What the President wanted to know was, did the Democrats assembled at the dinner have the "courage" to go to war to defend "the interests of humanity"? The audience cheered and shouted "Yes!" On April 18 Wilson finally sent his ultimatum to Germany'

Before a joint session of Congress ... Wilson explained to the country that he had taken the drastic step of an ultimatum with great reluctance. After assailing the "wanton" nature of submarine warfare and giving the gist of his note to Germany, the President insisted, as usual, that he had had no choice. "By the force of circumstances," said Wilson, America had become "the responsible spokesman for the rights of humanity" (except when Norway asked America to champion the right of neutrals not to be sunk by British mines in the North Sea). There could be no shirking our duty to humanity; dangerous though its discharge might be. As always under 'Wilson, neutral America lay haplessly ensnared in a net of inescapable obligations that perpetually imperiled our peace and neutrality."

In the bastions of "America First," 'Wilson's grim call to international duty received a predictably warm welcome. The Senate strongly approved the ultimatum. The metropolitan press favored it overwhelmingly.

Americans were growing reluctant to voice "disloyal" and "un-American" opinions in a moment of crisis. Sullen submission to an odious fate, so marked in the American people after the United States entered the war, was already beginning to infect the country. The war party was winning the civil war over war."

In 1916 the American people were once again called upon to elect a President. The crypto-interventionists, a bipartisan faction, were once again compelled to resume their expected partisan roles. It was an awkward situation both for Wilson and for the leaders of the Republican Party, the ostensible opposition. The Republicans could scarcely campaign on a platform of "standing by" a Democratic President: It would have made the election an open farce. Opposition of some kind was required and there was no doubt what kind would make a Republican victory certain. Republican leaders had only to nominate a candidate who stood convincingly for peace. Let him campaign with full party backing on a policy of genuine neutrality; let him contrast that policy with Wilson's partiality to Britain; let him point out to the electorate that such partiality endangered our neutrality and invited embroilment in the European war. The Republican candidate who offered that opposition would have won the presidency in a landslide. The Democratic Party was weak in the country. Wilson himself was widely disliked or distrusted despite his bipartisan support.

For Republican leaders, however, running an antiwar candidate on a platform of genuine neutrality presented a fatal difficulty. They would win the election but lose the war. To endorse antiwar sentiment in America, to assert that Wilson's foreign policy rather than German villainy endangered the peace, would destroy all chance of dragging America into an "inevitable" conflict. Once pry loose the lid on American public opinion and there was no calculating the force of the eruption. So far from winning the presidency at so steep a price certain Republican leaders, Lodge and Root in particular, urged Republicans to go before the country as an all but open war party.

Between their fear of losing the war and their fear of sundering the party, the Republican oligarchy adopted a two-step compromise strategy. At the national convention in Chicago the oligarchy, for the sake of party unity, nominated a man free of any interventionist taint and put through a moderate platform which actually called for "honest neutrality." They then turned around during the ensuing campaign and virtually forced their chosen candidate to take an unpopular, bellicose line.

The oligarchy's chosen nominee-he had no serious rivals-was Charles Evans Hughes, Supreme Court justice since 1910 and the perfect "available man" for national convention purposes. Remembered as mildly progressive, Hughes, as a member of the Court, had taken no part in the bitter intraparty struggles of 1912 nor had he uttered a single public word about the European matter. Respected and above all untainted, Hughes enjoyed enormous initial advantages over the President, whom Americans by a considerable margin were strongly inclined to be rid of. Among the Republican nominee's assets was Roosevelt's well-known dislike of him. The former President, returning to the Republican fold after killing off his dying Progressive Party, was so desperately truculent that anyone he publicly disapproved of enjoyed a virtual certificate of pacific intentions. Nor was Hughes an interventionist in 1916. In a private interview with Oswald Villard, the New York publisher, he sharply attacked Wilson for, in his own words, "maneuvering the country into a position where war may be a necessity."

Had Hughes said that plainly and clearly in public, 'Wilson's chances for reelection would have been nil. Unfortunately for Hughes, the Republican oligarchy did not want their candidate telling the electorate home truths that imperiled the war. They wanted Wilson attacked as a pacifist, not as a warhawk disguised, and their demands could not be disregarded. If Hughes defied the oligarchy the party organization would knife his candidacy and the results would be fatal: No nonincumbent candidate for the presidency ever won the office over his own party's opposition.

Wilson placed his own hopes for reelection on grounds other than peace. His only chance for victory lay in winning the support of millions of independent progressive Republicans who were now virtually partyless. They wanted peace and they wanted further reforms, which in themselves seemed to betoken peace. The President, who had declared the "bad dream" of reform at an end in 1914 and who had opposed every reform measure since then, decided he had no choice but to become a progressive reformer once again. In the winter of 1915 'Wilson had opposed as "class legislation" federally backed credits for farmers. In 1916 he switched and supported it-it became law on July 17. Previously he had opposed on states' rights grounds federal child-labor legislation. He now switched and supported it-it became law on September 1. Under intense pressure from reformers Wilson supported the first genuinely graduated income tax in American history to finance the costs of preparedness. He pushed through legislation that mandated the eight-hour workday on the nation's railroads-it became law on September 3. He claimed in his first formal campaign speech that he was now the champion of "social justice," which is to say, of everything he had opposed six months before.

Wilson's 1916 reforms were an impressive, if expedient, performance. Yet despite the reforms, despite Hughes's compromised campaign, despite the vote-repelling rant of Roosevelt, a clear majority of the voters were still inclined as of late September to get rid of Woodrow Wilson. The President's reversion to reform had helped him greatly, but the paramount issue in the country was peace.

To kill Hughes with Roosevelt became the Democrats' closing campaign theme. Roosevelt, quite obviously, was a warmonger; Roosevelt spoke for a bellicose Republican leadership. Who then was the Republican candidate? The answer, said the Democrats, was obvious: He was a man in "complete accord with Roosevelt," a warmonger thinly disguised. For Hughes it was a painful accusation and a bitterly ironic one, for Roosevelt detested him, wanted him to lose, and thought his very nomination proof that America was "yellow." To the Democrats' accusation, however, Hughes had no adequate reply. Struggle and squirm though he tried, he dared not repudiate Roosevelt. Approving Roosevelt's violent speeches was one of the Republican oligarchy's ground rules, and Hughes feared to breach them. Unless party leaders got out every regular Republican vote on election day, he no longer had a chance to win. Indeed, the more he had curried their favor at the cost of votes the more urgently he needed their favor. With his once formidable lead melting away, the hapless Hughes was reduced in the final days of the campaign to crying up the virtues of the protective tariff, the only safe issue Republican leaders allowed him. As Wilson himself rightly observed, Hughes was "in a hopelessly false position."

While Hughes spread the Republican gospel of 1884, the Democrats hammered away at the Hughes-is-Roosevelt theme to the end.

Until the California votes were tabulated the day after the election, the outcome remained in doubt. By the slender margin of 3,773 votes, Wilson carried the normally Republican state and with it the election. Contemporaries cited Hughes's preference for California's stand-pat Republicans over the dominant progressive Republicans for his loss of the state and the presidency. If so, it was the perfect epitome of his entire campaign. Running strongly in the Middle West and West, where Democrats usually fared poorly, Wilson had actually eked out his victory by capturing the antiwar reform wing of the national Republican Party, whom Republican leaders had spurned throughout the campaign. Wilson's reelection has often been regarded as a great personal triumph, but it was nothing of the kind. Had the Republican oligarchy allowed its candidate to campaign as he wished, Wilson would have gone down to a decisive, humiliating defeat. His reelection was the gift of a Republican oligarchy that preferred to see a Democrat lead the country into war rather than risk having no war at all.

The Politics of War

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