Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Today -100: February 28, 1917: They probably did not think the Germans quite as murderous as I did


William Jennings Bryan, Woodrow Wilson’s former secretary of state, will fight his request for the power to arm ships and “other instrumentalities and methods.” It’s about Congress not surrendering its power, he says.

The NYT scoffs at congressional Republican demands for an extra session of Congress during this slightly dangerous time: “Their zeal for the constitutional powers of Congress and their dread of Executive despotism are but postures. In the extremity of their partisanship they care more for Republican tactics than for the protection of American shipping and lives. They are more jealous of the power of the President than of the honor of the country.”

Austin Hoy, whose sister and mother were killed when that German u-boat sank the Laconia, demands that Woodrow Wilson avenge them. AVEEEEEENGE THEEEEEM! He says if the US goes to war he’ll join the army. If not, he’ll join the British or French army (“If [the US] stultifies my manhood and my nation’s by remaining passive under outrage, I shall seek a man’s chance under another flag,” he manfully cables Wilson, and I was just going to comment about how dirty “seek a man’s chance under another flag” sounds, until I realized I’d written that Hoy “cabled” Wilson. He says he wired to his mother and sister not to risk the crossing, but they wanted to get back to London while the getting was still good and “They probably did not think the Germans quite as murderous as I did.”

The sinking of the Laconia is reportedly regarded by the Wilson administration as the “overt act” that constitutes crossing Wilson’s red line. This doesn’t mean Woodrow plans to declare war but to use the powers he asked Congress for “in a way that will make Germany realize that the United States means business.”

And Germany is evidently not releasing the prisoners (including Americans) seized from the Yarrowdale after all. Not still holding them hostage against the treatment of German sailors in the US, oh no, the Germans claim to have detected an unnamed infectious disease in their detention camp, necessitating a quarantine.

German Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg is not happy with the US’s position: “I cannot possibly consider it a vital question for the American nation to protect international law in a one-sided fashion, only against us.” He’s got a point, sort of. He says that unrestricted submarine warfare is totally working and will totally defeat Britain and will be continued.


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