Sunday, April 2, 2017

President Urges War to "Rescue Humanity" -- April 2, 2017

Washington Herald, 03-April-1917

100 years ago today, on 02-April-1917, President Woodrow Wilson asked Congress to declare war against the Empire of Germany.  

President Urges War to "Rescue Humanity"
In Address to Joint Session of Congress, Mr. Wilson Declares for Immediate Entry into Strife.
Sets Forth Plan for Financing Entente Allies and Flays Perfidy of the German Government. 

President Wilson last night demanded that the United States recognize the state of war which Germany has thrust upon the nation and exert all of its powers to bring the government of Germany to terms and end the war.

Before the Congress, in joint session, the President bitterly but dispassionately arraigned the German government for its "warfare against mankind," and urged the representatives of the people to act at once to put an end to the destruction of "men, women and children" in the submaine zone.

In calm silence, but with determined faces, the Senators and Representatives listened as the President told them:


 "I advise that the Congress declare the recent course of the Imperial German government to be in fact nothing less than war against the government and people of the United States; that it formally accept the status of a belligerent which has thus been thrust upon it, and that it take immediate steps not only to put the country in a state of defense, but also to exert all its power and employ all of its resources to bring the government of Germany to terms and end the war."

Brought face to face with the fateful plunge into the maelstrom of the struggle which for three years has convulsed the world, the Congress immediately took, calmly but enthusiastically, the first steps toward declaring the existence of war and making ready for its prosecution.


A joint resolution, worded almost exactly in the President's phraseology, was introduced in both the House and Senate immediately after his speech was concluded. Congress leaders called the proper committees together for this morning, to take up the resolution for immediate action.

The leaders declared last night that both houses would be prompt in making the declaration recommended by the President. and in providing legislation to mobilize the man power, money power. and all the resources of the nation for the coming struggle. The spirit in Congress was calm but determined, and it evidenced itself in a wild outburst of enthusiasm when the President in the course of his address declared:

"We will not choose the path of submission."


For minutes the Congress, and the spectators who jammed every foot of space in the House galleries, cheered and applauded this statement. Cheers greeted the President's review of the long line of  German violations of American rights, and his declaration that the government which followed such
methods "we can never have as a friend."

"We enter this war only where we are cdearly forced into, and because there are no other means of defending our rights," he asserted, and Congress and the galleries once more voiced theit approval.

The lawmakers of the nation sat in attentive and determined silence as the President laid down a program of war legislation which must be enacted to enable the United States to take its place among the enemies of Germany effectively.


The President urged the utmsost practical co-opration with the entente powers, and the extension to them of the nation's liberal financial resources.  He declared the material resources of the nation must be organized and mobilized for military purposes. He urged the complete equipment of the navy to combat submarines. And he declared for an immediate army of 500,000 men to be raised on the principle of universal liability to service, and subsequent armies as soon as they are needed. Finally he demanded "adequate credits" for the government to finance the war measures. He promised detailed drafts of legislation and estimates of expenditures from the departnets in charge of war preparation, to carry out his recommendations.

The Presidnt made it clear that the war the United Staets is about to embark on was not a war of conquest, but one for "the rights of mankind."

He pointed to the democratization of Russia and declared the new Russia was a fit partner for a "League of Honor."  He declared that the war was against the Prussian autocracy and not against the German people. 

"We are the sincere friends of the German people," said the President.  "We have borne this present government through all these bitter months because of that friendship -- exercising a patience and forbearance which otherwise have been impossible."


He declared that the United States proposed to fight for "the ultimate peace of the world, and for the liberation of its people, the German peoples included." And he placed the entrance of the United States into the war on the broad humanitarian basis that "the world must be made safe for democracy."

Cheers resounded in the crowded chamber as the President declared that one of the convincing arguments that the Prussian autocracy could not be the friend of the United States was the fact that "since the outset of the war it has filled our unsuspecting communities and even our offices of government with spies, and set criminal intrigues everywhere afoot."  The President again and again emphasized the fact that the United States was in no way responsible for the present state of war, and he was roundly cheered at tack attack on the German submarine policy.


All the pomp and ceremony of government was assembled in the hall of  the House to hear the President make his history-making address.  The diplomats representing the entente powers, taking advantage of an ancient privilege of the House. for the first time in years sat on the floor of the House.  Beside the volatile Frenchman, Jusserand, sat the phlegmatic Britisher, Sir Cecil Spring Rice. Russian Ambassador Bakhmeteff was not present.  But Senor Riano, the Spanish Ambassador, and a group of South and Central American diplomats, headed by Senor Calderon, the Bolivian Minister, sat with the representatives of the American people.  Ignacio Bonillas, the newly-named Mexican Ambassador, rushed to the Capitol, as he arrived in Washington during the evening, and was in time to hear President Wilson relate Germany's efforts to embroil Mexico and Japan with the United States.

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