Page 3691


of this kind of warfare," said Zimmermann

to Gerard, "and we shall end the war and

make peace within three months." In a

speech soon after he returned to America,

Gerard declared, "If we had a million men

under arms to-day we would not be near

the edge of war."

President Wilson was profoundly moved

when he heard the news and at once

summoned Colonel House, his confidential

adviser, from New York for consultation.

He also talked over the crisis with sixteen

Democratic Senators and with other persons. A few of the Senators, notably Stone

of Missouri, even then, advised against a

break in diplomatic relations, but most

felt otherwise. The country as a whole

was wrought up to a tense state of excitement. There were men so blind to the

honor and safety of their country that

they vociferously urged submission, but

sensible men realized that the time had

come when we must take action or endanger

our freedom and become the laughing stock

of the world.

The President finally decided that he

would break diplomatic relations. On the

afternoon of February 3, he appeared

before a joint session of Congress and

announced that he had directed Secretary

Lansing to give von Bernstorff his passports, to summon home our representatives

in Germany, and to break off all diplomatic

relations with the German Empire.

He declared, however, that he could

not bring himself to believe that the

Germans would "indeed pay no regard to

the ancient friendship between their people

and our own or to the solemn obligations

which have been exchanged between them,

and destroy American ships and take the

lives of American citizens in the willful

prosecution of the ruthless naval program

they have announced their intention to

adopt. Only actual overt acts on their

part can make me believe it even now.

"If this inveterate confidence on my

part in the sobriety and prudent foresight

of their purpose should unhappily prove

unfounded: if American ships and American lives should in fact be sacrificed by

their naval commanders in heedless contravention of the just and reasonable understandings of international law and the

obvious dictates of humanity, I shall

take the liberty of coming again before

the Congress to ask that authority be

given me to use any means that may be

necessary for the protection of our seamen

and our people in the prosecution of their

peaceful and legitimate errands on the high

seas. I can do nothing less. I take it for

granted that all neutral Governments will

take the same course.

"We do not desire any hostile conflict

with the Imperial German Government.

We are the sincere friends of the German

people, and earnestly desire to remain at

peace with the Government which speaks

for them. We shall not believe that

they are hostile to us unless and until

we are obliged to believe it; and we

purpose nothing more than the reasonable

defense of the undoubted rights of our

people. We wish to serve no selfish ends.

We seek merely to stand true alike in

thought and in action to the immemorial

principles of our people, which I have

sought to express in my address to the

Senate only two weeks ago-seek merely

to vindicate our right to liberty and justice

and an unmolested life. These are the

bases of peace, not war. God grant that

we may not be challenged to defend them

by acts of willful injustice on the part of

the Government of Germany!"

American correspondents in Berlin state

that when Foreign Secretary Zimmermann

heard that diplomatic relations would be

broken, he used violent language and

displayed great emotion. Gerard assures

us that the break came as an intense

surprise not only to Zimmermann but

also to other members of the Government.

By the time Gerard reached the Foreign

Office, however, to demand his passports,

Zimmermann had had time to compose


The Germans were vastly concerned

about the safety of the 600,000 tons of

merchant shipping lying in American

harbors and also for other German property

in America. Accordingly they hatched

up a scheme to coerce Gerard into securing