Monday, January 16, 2017

Today -100: January 16, 1917: We cannot afford to give the impression that we are chasing peace at all costs

The US-Mexican Joint Commission dissolves after four months of discussions which were never going to accomplish anything, and which didn’t.

German Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmermann says that the Entente’s reply to Wilson’s note has made it impossible for Germany to name its own peace conditions. See if you can follow the logic: the peace terms that the Entente named in response to Wilson were so extreme that if Germany now named its terms, their very mildness and reasonableness would be taken as a sign of weakness, which would just encourage the enemy to keep fighting. “We cannot afford to give the impression that we are chasing peace at all costs.” He suggests that if England’s goal is, as it says, liberation rather than pillaging, it should set an example by freeing Ireland.

The Supreme Court upholds the Mann Act, which is supposed to regulate commercialized prostitution (“white slavery”), but is often used to prosecute any couple who cross state lines for sexual escapades. Since Congress only claims the power to enact this law under the Inter-State Commerce Clause, it’s hard to see the Court’s logic in counting sex where no money exchanges hands as “commerce.”

Boston financier Thomas Lawson, testifying before the House Rules Committee’s investigation of the rumor that cabinet member(s) leaked Wilson’s peace proposals to stock speculators names names, including Treasury Secretary (and Wilson’s son-in-law) William Gibbs McAdoo and his banker brother Malcolm (who wants William to punch Lawson’s head), Wilson’s secretary Joseph Tumulty, Secretary of State Robert Lansing, and financier Bernard Baruch. The witness names as his source the – hey, wait a minute! – chairman of the Rules Committee, Robert Lee Henry (D-Texas). Henry denies this. Lawson says he talked to journalists about their conversation immediately after it occurred and shouts, “I’ll make good here, and I won’t go to jail as the goat.”

The New York City Health Department’s campaign against spitting continues. 174 men (no women) appear in court. 2 have acceptable excuses, the rest are fined $1 or $2.

German Foreign Minister Zimmermann sends a telegram to the German ambassador to Mexico, Heinrich von Eckardt, informing him that Germany intends to resume unrestricted warfare on February 1st and instructing him that if the United States looks like declaring war in response, Eckhardt should propose an alliance with Mexico against the US – “make war together, make peace together” – promising Mexico the return of territories lost in the Mexican-American War. Well, some of them, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas. California would go to Japan, which Mexico should ask to join (Zimmermann thought Japan might be amenable due to annoyance at racist immigrant and land ownership laws in the US). The Zimmermann Telegram will be intercepted and decrypted by British Naval Intelligence as it wends its way through transatlantic cables that fortuitously pass through Britain, the British will pass it to the Americans, and away we go.

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  1. So is it fair to say that Trump is following in the footsteps of Wilson, in using his son-in-law as an important member of his team? And the racism of course.

  2. It's not. McAdoo worked with Wilson for years before marrying his daughter, so he got married because he was secretary of the Treasury, where Kushner is getting his job because he married Ivanka. And the racism of course (indeed, McAdoo was heavily supported by the KKK for president in 1924 against Catholic Al Smith) (er, spoiler alert).