The United States in the World War

By John Bach McMaster | Go to book overview

CHAPTER V
THE "LUSITANIA" NOTES

IT was now the duty of the Department of State to reply to the note from von Jagow concerning the Cushing, Gulflight and Lusitania. That the President was preparing such a reply was well known in Washington; but rumor had it that the Cabinet was at odds. Mr. Bryan, it was said, wished a note sent to Great Britain demanding all the rights of neutrals under international law; did not approve of the length to which the President went in his "strict accountability" threat; and feared, unless the terms of the new note were modified, or the protest sent to Great Britain at the same time, diplomatic relations with Germany would be broken. Indeed, he might resign.

On June 8, 1915, Mr. Bryan did resign, and in his letter to the President said: "Obedient to your sense of duty and actuated by the highest motives, you have prepared for transmission to the German Government a note in which I cannot join without violating what I deem to be an obligation to my country, and the issue involved is of such moment that to remain a member of the Cabinet would be as unfair to you as it would be to the cause which is nearest my heart, namely, the prevention of war." The resignation was "to take effect when the note is sent, unless you prefer an earlier hour."

Beset by interviewers, as soon as the resignation became known, Mr. Bryan said: "The differences between the President and myself on the question of these notes did not spring up suddenly to-day or this week. They have existed since the Falaba case. We have had many talks about the questions involved, and the difference in our attitude has gradually grown wider. Finally we agreed to disagree. We decided upon that one day last week."

His act made a great sensation, and because of it he was

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