Official Statements of War Aims and Peace Proposals, December 1916 to November 1918

By James Brown Scott | Go to book overview

CHANCELLOR VON BETHMANN-HOLLWEG'S ADDRESS TO THE REICHSTAG ON THE AIMS OF THE SUBMARINE WAR1
February 27, 1917

While our soldiers on the front stand in the drumfire of the trenches, and our submarines, defying death, hasten through the seas, while we at home have no other--absolutely no other--task but to produce cannon, ammunition and food, and to distribute victuals with justice; in the midst of this struggle for life and for the future of our empire, intensified to the extreme, there is only one necessity of the day which dominates all questions of policy, both foreign and domestic--to fight and gain victory.

. . . . . . . . . . .

We by no means underestimate the difficulties caused to neutral shipping, and we therefore try to alleviate them as much as possible. For this purpose we made an attempt to supply raw materials, such as coal and iron, needed by them, to neutral States within the boundaries of our sea forces. But we also know that all these difficulties, after all, are caused by England's tyranny of the seas. We will and shall break this enslavement of all the non-English trade. We meet half way all wishes of neutrals that can be complied with. But in the endeavor to do so we can never go beyond the limits imposed upon us by the irrevocable decision to reach the aim of the establishment of the barred zone.

I am sure that later the moment will come when neutrals themselves will thank us for our firmness, for the freedom of the seas, which we gain by fighting, is of advantage to them also.

. . . . . . . . . . .

We regret the rupture with a nation which by her history seemed to be predestined surely to work with us, not against us. But since our honest will for peace has encountered only jeering on the part of our enemies there is no more "going backwards." There is only "going ahead" possible for us.

____________________
1
The New York Times, February 28, 1917, p. 1.

-80-

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