Monday, March 06, 2017

Today -100: March 6, 1917: We are provincials no longer

Woodrow Wilson gives his second inaugural address. Its clear aim is to prepare the American people for war, while exonerating them, and himself, from the charge of actually wanting war.

To be indifferent to it [the war], or independent of it, was out of the question.
And yet all the while we have been conscious that we were not part of it. In that consciousness, despite many divisions, we have drawn closer together. We have been deeply wronged upon the seas, but we have not wished to wrong or injure in return; have retained throughout the consciousness of standing in some sort apart, intent upon an interest that transcended the immediate issues of the war itself.
As some of the injuries done us have become intolerable we have still been clear that we wished nothing for ourselves that we were not ready to demand for all mankind – fair dealing, justice, the freedom to live and to be at ease against organized wrong.
It is in this spirit and with this thought that we have grown more and more aware, more and more certain that the part we wished to play was the part of those who mean to vindicate and fortify peace. We have been obliged to arm ourselves to make good our claim to a certain minimum of right and of freedom of action. We stand firm in armed neutrality since it seems that in no other way we can demonstrate what it is we insist upon and cannot forget. We may even be drawn on, by circumstances, not by our own purpose or desire, to a more active assertion of our rights as we see them and a more immediate association with the great struggle itself. ...
We are provincials no longer. The tragic events of the thirty months of vital turmoil through which we have just passed have made us citizens of the world. There can be no turning back. Our own fortunes as a nation are involved whether we would have it so or not.
“The more active assertion of our rights”!

While the Wilson administration reconsiders whether that 1819 law really prevents the arming of merchant ships and the Senate considers neutering the filibuster, there are calls of “traitor!” and “hang them!” as the names of the filibusterers are read out at a meeting in Carnegie Hall, which passes a resolution supporting Wilson and condemning “so-called ‘pacifists’” as un-American, and Oregonians initiate recall procedures against Sen. Harry Lane (D). He will die in May before that goes anywhere (and yes, in Oregon it was possible to recall a US senator). Robert La Follette is barred from Wheeling, West Virginia, where he has a lecture scheduled (the horror) and is hanged in effigy by University of Illinois students. And the trustees of Columbia University, the largest university in the country, appoint a committee, headed by former chief justice of the New York Supreme Court George Ingraham, to investigate any “disloyalty” among the faculty. The country’s not even at war yet.

However, the Metropolitan Opera denies that it will ban German opera in event of war.

German newspapers are portraying the Zimmermann telegram revelation as some sort of trick by Wilson to stampede Congress against Germany, even though they’re not denying the authenticity of the telegram.

Headline of the Day -100:  

Sounds like a missed opportunity.

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