Monday, January 23, 2017

Today -100: January 23, 1917: Peace without victory


Woodrow Wilson makes a surprise speech to the Senate (text). He talks about the need for the US to join a league to enforce the peace after the European war – “It is inconceivable that the people of the United States should play no part in that great enterprise.” However, while he admits the US will have no role in peace negotiations, he does have some conditions before the US can join the League he’s advocating.

He proposes a world in which there are no alliances like those of the Entente and the Central Powers, but rather the adoption of the Monroe Doctrine “as the doctrine of the world,” whatever that means. He says that peace terms based on the victory of one side will not lead to a lasting peace (this speech is known as the Peace without Victory speech) because “it would be accepted in humiliation, under duress, at an intolerable sacrifice, and would leave a sting, a resentment, a bitter memory, upon which terms of peace would rest, not permanently, but only as upon quicksand. Only a peace between equals can last. Only a peace the very principle of which is equality and a common participation in a common benefit.” He has some ideas about what that peace would look like: Poland must be autonomous, full freedom of the seas for every nation, etc.

Why is he addressing the Senate? He’s not expecting any concrete action from Congress, he just needed a forum, and neither side of the war seemed that interested in receiving any more of his little notes. No president has appeared before the Senate to make a policy statement like this since George Washington, who did it once (and was so annoyed that they dared to ask him questions that he never returned).

Theodore Roosevelt, not surprisingly, prefers peace with victory to peace without victory.

Margaret Sanger’s sister Ethel Byrne is sentenced to 30 days in the workhouse for giving out birth control literature. She plans to hunger strike.

Franz Bopp, the former German consul in San Francisco, is sentenced to 2 years in prison and a $10,000 fine for plotting to blow up ships and munitions factories. Also sentenced to prison are the former vice-consul Baron E.H. von Schack, Lt. Wilhelm von Brincken and other assorted spies and saboteurs. They were released in 1920.

Interestingly, Von Brincken stayed in the US after his release from Alcatraz and went on to an acting career in Hollywood, because why not. In the sound period he appeared as German baddies in a lot of war/spy movies. His last IMDB credit is “The Hitler Gang” (1944).

Headline of the Day -100:


Georgia harness-racing stewards, not Of The Apocalypse.


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