Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Today -100: August 19, 1914: Be neutral in fact as well as in name

Woodrow Wilson chooses Attorney General James McReynolds for the empty seat on the Supreme Court.  Mostly so he doesn’t have to deal with the thoroughly unpleasant McReynolds in Cabinet anymore.  There really doesn’t seem to have been any more thought behind it than that.  Wilson chose a lot more carefully for the next vacancy, appointing Louis Brandeis in 1916, which made for some awkwardness because McReynolds was a HUUUUGE anti-Semite.  Wouldn’t even talk to Jews, including fellow justices, or listen when a woman lawyer was speaking.

Woodrow Wilson addresses the nation, asking Americans to censor themselves in the name of neutrality:
The effect of the war upon the United States will depend upon what American citizens say and do. Every man who really loves America will act and speak in the true spirit of neutrality, which is the spirit of impartiality and fairness and friendliness to all concerned. The spirit of the nation in this critical matter will be determined largely by what individuals and society and those gathered in public meetings do and say, upon what newspapers and magazines contain, upon what ministers utter in their pulpits, and men proclaim as their opinions upon the street.
The people of the United States are drawn from many nations, and chiefly from the nations now at war. It is natural and inevitable that there should be the utmost variety of sympathy and desire among them with regard to the issues and circumstances of the conflict. Some will wish one nation, others another, to succeed in the momentous struggle. It will be easy to excite passion and difficult to allay it. Those responsible for exciting it will assume a heavy responsibility, responsibility for no less a thing than that the people of the United States, whose love of their country and whose loyalty to its government should unite them as Americans all, bound in honor and affection to think first of her and her interests, may be divided in camps of hostile opinion, hot against each other, involved in the war itself in impulse and opinion if not in action.
Such divisions amongst us would be fatal to our peace of mind and might seriously stand in the way of the proper performance of our duty as the one great nation at peace, the one people holding itself ready to play a part of impartial mediation and speak the counsels of peace and accommodation, not as a partisan, but as a friend. 
I venture, therefore, my fellow countrymen, to speak a solemn word of warning to you against that deepest, most subtle, most essential breach of neutrality which may spring out of partisanship, out of passionately taking sides. The United States must be neutral in fact, as well as in name, during these days that are to try men's souls. We must be impartial in thought, as well as action, must put a curb upon our sentiments, as well as upon every transaction that might be construed as a preference of one party to the struggle before another.
Wilson signs an amendment to the Panama Canal Act to give foreign-built ships US registry.  This will allow German ships which were caught on the wrong side of the Atlantic when the war started to be sold to Americans without being sunk by the British (who insist that the sales of the ships be permanent and not a ruse to avoid being sunk).

Evidently a couple of weeks ago Wilson rejected calls from President Carbajal (and even from a majority of his own cabinet) to send troops to Mexican City to “preserve order” during the Constitutionalist takeover.

The first British forces arrive in France. Field Marshal Kitchener warns the troops, “you may find temptation both in wine and women. You must entirely resist both temptations, and, while treating all women with perfect courtesy, you should avoid any intimacy.”

Headline of the Day -100 (LA Times):  “Swordsmen on Aircraft.”
According to the LAT (and it’s smudged, so I may have the spellings wrong), “Georges Breitmayer and Rouselei Lorcieres, two of the most celebrated swordsmen in France, have enlisted to work machine guns aboard air craft.”

Fog of War (Rumors, Propaganda and Just Plain Bullshit) of the Day -100: the German crown prince is reported wounded.

Fog of War: German troops reportedly burned the town of Bruzweiler and blew up its factories because a German patrol was fired on.  I can’t find evidence that this town ever actually existed.

Fog of War: The London Daily Mail claims that the German General Staff has warned against the “lunatic frenzy” in which automobiles suspected of carrying spies are attacked in Germany, resulting in the recent deaths of 2 officers, 3 chauffeurs, some soldiers, 2 civilians and an Austrian countess.

A letter to the NYT says that panhandlers are pretending to be stranded European army reservists asking for a loan for passage to go home and fight.

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