Thursday, June 11, 2015

Today -100: June 11, 1915: Contending for nothing less high and sacred than the rights of humanity

Pres. Wilson’s note to Germany (full text) is made public. It asks Germany for assurances that it will stop killing Americans and sinking American ships and accept as a principle that non-combatants can’t be endangered when Germany attacks unresisting merchant ships. “The Government of the United States is contending for something much greater than mere rights of property or privileges of commerce. It is contending for nothing less high and sacred than the rights of humanity”. Specifically, the rights of people from neutral countries to travel by sea without being blowed up. Germany’s claims about contraband munitions being aboard the Lusitania are dismissed as “irrelevant” to the issue of the legality of the methods used in sinking it. All in all, a pretty mild document; the promise Wilson made in the first Lusitania note to hold Germany to “strict accountability” is not repeated.

German newspapers attack Wilson’s note as “one-eyed neutrality”: accepting Britain’s naval blockade of Germany but not German attacks on British supply ships. The London Times has an article by an American living in Germany who says “The average German today holds the American to be a money-grubbing coward.” And your point is?

Former Secretary of State Bryan issues a new statement to the American people, saying that Wilson’s note to Germany is part of the “old system” of force, while Bryan espouses the new system of persuasion and arbitration. The old system led to this war. “Some nation must lead the world out of the black night of war into the light of day when ‘swords shall be beaten into plowshares.’ Why not make that honor ours? ... Some day the nations will place their trust in love, the weapon, for which there is no shield” etc.

The US Secret Service arrests Gustav Stahl, one of the people whose affidavits the German government trotted out to “prove” the Lusitania was equipped with cannons. He’s arrested for perjury in his testimony before a grand jury. If I’m getting this right, Stahl testified for officials of the Hamburg-American Line being investigated for using false papers to ferry supplies from the US to German naval ships, contrary to US law, and those officials then got him to lie about the Lusitania as well.

A forthcoming article in Scientific American suggests how German poison gas might be dealt with. Poison gas as currently delivered, simply releasing the gas when a mild wind is blowing in the right direction (too strong a wind and it disperses), is pretty vulnerable to... giant fans (airplane engines and propellers without the actual airplane, hidden so they aren’t immediately targeted and blown up).

The French army will reduce solders’ meat ration and send them more preserved fruit instead.

In Johnston City, Illinois, a mob lynches a Sicilian miner who helped assassinate a rich guy whose son-in-law is a mine superintendent who recently fired some other Sicilians.

For the first time since reformist Thomas Osborne became warden of Sing Sing, someone escapes: Frederick Spence, who paid a guy $2 and a drink to shoot a man who had beaten him up for making unwanted advances to the man’s sister-in-law. The other prisoners are so upset by this breach of trust (and breach of bars, but evidently Sing Sing was really easy to escape from) that they immediately subscribe $100 for a reward for his capture.

The 1916 Hudson! Now with graceful yacht lines!

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