Monday, May 09, 2016

Today -100: May 9, 1916: It is America’s duty to keep her head and yet have a very hard head


Secretary of State Robert Lansing replies to Germany’s statement on submarine warfare, which it pleases him to call a “declaration of its abandonment of the policy which has so seriously menaced the good relations between the two countries.” He says that the British naval blockade of Germany is irrelevant, although Germany pretty clearly said that the two are linked.

The u-boat U-20, the one that sank the Lusitania, celebrates the one-year anniversary of that event (oh okay, technically a year and a day) by sinking the SS Cymric, a White Star liner carrying munitions from the US to Britain. Without warning, as was the custom. 5 crew die (there were no passengers), but since none of them were American, the shaky US-German understanding is unaffected (although the US will take a few days working out whether the Cymric had been commandeered by the British Navy or hired by it, because that makes a huge difference to zzzzz).

4 more Irish rebels are sentenced to death by court-martial and immediately executed. That makes 11 executions so far, not counting extra-judicial murders like Francis Sheehy-Skeffington’s, and a bunch of commutations.

Woodrow Wilson defends his position on preparedness to a deputation from the American Union Against Militarism. Should the European countries beg the US to help restore peace, “you must go in on a basis intelligible to the people you are conferring with,” i.e., armed to the teeth. And there might be an international peace-keeping force which the US would join. But right now, well, “This is a year of madness. ... All the world is seeing red. ... In the circumstances, it is America’s duty to keep her head and yet have a very hard head.” And few heads are harder than Woodrow Wilson’s.

Rather late in the confirmation process for Louis Brandeis, the Senate Judiciary Committee asks Woodrow Wilson why he responded to their earlier request for papers related to the nomination (endorsements, that sort of thing) by saying there were none. Wilson says he relied on “public knowledge and personal acquaintance with the man.” He alludes to the charges made against Brandeis’s character, saying the committee’s report has shown those to be unfounded. Which is a little odd because the committee didn’t issue any report.


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