CARRYING ON ALONE
THE AMERICAN people were as astonished as their President by the outbreak of fighting in Europe. Hating no other nation, innocent of any thought of making war, and defended from attack by the Atlantic Ocean, they could not understand such lusts and fears as those that possessed the Old World.
Once hostilities had begun, however, and the quilt of innocence that had covered the minds of Americans was torn apart, prejudices surged up that had lain more or less dormant. Old bias against imperial Britain, fanned by citizens of Irish and German blood, began to glow again. The Hohenzollerns, who by commercial and naval aggressiveness had made themselves hobgoblins in the American Dream, now took on the menace of ogres.
The press of the nation gave vent immediately to emotional pressures that had been building up. Editors reflected feelings of affection for France, sympathy for the gallant underdogs--Belgium and Serbia --distrust of colossal Russia, and resentment toward a Kaiser who was reported once to have said to his troops: "Be terrible as Attila's Huns."
Contemplating the eddying of opinion in the first dark days of August, Wilson was swayed neither by journalists nor by politicians. Six months before war broke out, the President had given warning, in a press conference, that newspapers could do "a vast deal of damage" by printing speculations on foreign affairs. He was confident that he intuitively understood the temper of the American people better than editors and publishers who had criticized his New Freedom and scorned his Mexican policy of watchful waiting.
Financial magnates looked to the White House for reassurance; and Wilson was not displeased to feel that he could be of service to men who had thought him an impractical college president. When the impact of the war made the custodians of private capital shrink into their shells, he felt that he must safeguard his program of reform. The Clayton Bill was not yet enacted, and the President was by no means sure how this and the income tax and the Federal Reserve Act would