Robert Lansing and American Neutrality, 1914-1917

By Daniel M. Smith | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VIII
AMERICA ENTERS THE WAR

"I hope that those blundering Germans will blunder soon because there is no doubt but that the Allies in the went are having a hard time and Russia is not succeeding in spite of her man power. The Allies must not be beaten."

-- Robert Lansing1

THE FINAL PHASE of American neutrality centered around the efforts of President Wilson to mediate in the war. The failure of those attempts, together with the German launching of unrestricted submarine warfare, removed the last hope that America could remain out of the great European conflict.

The American efforts for peace were made in desperation and were doomed from their initial conception. America had lent herself rather fully to the Allied cause, and had placed the nation in opposition to the efficacious use of the submarine, thus tacitly accepting the numerous Allied violations of international law while demanding of Germany full compliance with the rules of war. The German government, responding to military exigencies, prepared in late 1916 to resume unrestricted U-boat warfare, partly on the assumption that America as a belligerent could hardly be any more useful to the Allies than she was as a neutral. America's last possibility of remaining at peace, and the only consideration of value to Germany, was that Wilson might be able to persuade the Allied Powers to enter peace negotiations. Unfortunately for him, the Allies were not willing to make peace while the military situation gave Germany the advantage, and so efforts for a peaceful settlement failed.

* * *

The election of 1916 apparently reinforced President Wilson's pacifism.2 Wilson had long desired to mediate the conflict and thereby to render an invaluable service to mankind. The Allied unwillingness to make peace while Germany was militarily successful and the fact that he was strongly sympathetic with the Entente cause had prevented Wilson from making a strong public bid for mediation. Thus, though sending Colonel House on private peace missions, Wilson had avoided participation in several proposed neutral conferences dedicated to ending the war.3 Moreover, the House-Grey memorandum of early 1916 seemed to indicate that at one time the president was thinking in terms

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