Page 4162

4162 HOW THE WAR CAME TO AMERICA

the good faith of both sides is profound. If either side lacks good faith, or

reveals in all its actions an insidious hostility, diplomacy is of no avail. And

so it has proved in the present case.

In the first year of the war the Government of Germany stirred up among

its people a feeling of resentment against the United States on account of

our insistence upon our right as a neutral nation to trade in munitions with

the belligerent powers. Our legal right in the matter was not seriously

questioned by Germany. She could not have done so consistently, for as

recently as the Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913 both Germany and Austria

sold munitions to the belligerents. Their appeals to us in the present war

were not to observe international law, but to revise it in their interest. And

these appeals they tried to make on moral and humanitarian grounds. But

upon "the moral issue" involved, the stand taken by the United States was

consistent with its traditional policy and with obvious common sense. For

if, with all other neutrals, we refused to sell munitions to belligerents, we

could never in time of a war of our own obtain munitions from neutrals, and

the nation which had accumulated the largest reserves of war supplies in time

of peace would be assured of victory. The militarist state that invested its

money in arsenals would be at a fatal advantage over the free people who

invested their wealth in schools. To write into international law that

neutrals should not trade in munitions would be to hand over the world

to the rule of the nation with the largest armament factories. Such a policy

the United States of America could not accept.

But our principal controversy with the German Government, and the

one which rendered the situation at once acute, rose out of their announcement of a sea zone where their submarines would operate in violation of

all accepted principles of international law. Our indignation at such a

threat was soon rendered passionate by the sinking of the Lusitania. This

attack upon our rights was not only grossly illegal; it defied the fundamental

concepts of humanity. Aggravating restraints on our trade were grievances

which could be settled by litigation after the war, but the wanton murder

of peaceable men and of innocent women and children, citizens of a nation

with which Germany was at peace, was a crime against the civilized world

which could never be settled in any court. Our Government, inspired still

by a desire to preserve peace if possible, used every resource of diplomacy

to force the German Government to abandon such attacks. This diplomatic correspondence proves beyond doubt that our Government sought

by every honorable means to preserve faith in that mutual sincerity

between nations which is the only basis of sound diplomatic interchange.