4161 HOW THE WAR CAME TO AMERICA
The address of our President, on May 27, 1916, before the League to Enforce
Peace was a milestone in our history. He outlined the main principles on
which a stable peace must rest, principles plainly indicating that this Nation
would have to give up its position of isolation and assume the responsibilities
of a world power. The President said:
"So sincerely do we believe these things that I am sure that I speak the
mind and wish of the people of America when I say that the United States
is willing to become a partner in any feasible association of nations formed
in order to realize these objects and make them secure against violation."
It was a new and significant note in our foreign policy. But the mind of
America had learned much in the long bitter months of war. Future historians will make charts of this remarkable evolution in our public opinion:
the gradual abandonment of the illusion of isolation; the slow growth of a
realization that we could not win freedom on sea-for us a vital interest unless we consented to do our share in maintaining freedom on land as well,
and that we could not have peace in the world-the peace we loved and
needed for the perfection of our democracy-unless we were willing and
prepared to help to restrain any nation that willfully endangered the peace
of the whole world family.
Had this address of the President come before the war, there would have
arisen a storm of protest from all sections of the land. But in May, 1916,
the Nation's response was emphatic approval.
In the meantime, although our neutral rights were not brought into question by Germany as early as by England, the German controversy was
infinitely more serious.
For any dissensions that might arise, no arbitration treaty existed between the United States and the German Government. This was from
no fault of ours. We had tried to establish with Germany the same treaty
relations we had with Great Britain and nineteen other nations. But these
overtures had been rejected. And this action on the part of the Imperial German Government was only one example of its whole system of diplomacy.
In both conferences at The Hague it had been the German delegates who
were the most active in blocking all projects for the pacific settlement of
disputes between nations. They had preferred to limit international relations to the old modes of diplomacy and war. It was therefore 'obvious
from the first that any controversy with the German Government would
be exceedingly serious; for if it could not be solved by direct diplomatic conversations, there was no recourse except to war.
From such conversations there is small hope of satisfactory results unless