Maurice G. (Maurice Garland) Fulton.

National ideals and problems; essays for college English online

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to destroy it with war seeking to dissolve the Union and divide
the effects by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war, but
one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive,
and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the
war came. One-eighth of the whole population were colored
slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in
the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and
powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the
cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this
interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend
the Union by war, while the Government claimed no right to do
more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it.

Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the
duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated
that the cause of the conflict might cease, even before the con-
flict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a
result less fundamental and astounding.

Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each
invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any
men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their
bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not,
that we be not judged. The prayer of both could not be answered.
That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His
own purposes. Woe unto the world because of offences, for it
must needs be that offences come, but woe to that man by whom
the offence cometh. If we shall suppose that American slavery
is one of these offences which, in the providence of God, must
needs come, but which having continued through His appointed
tune, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North
and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the
offence came, shall we discern there any departure from those
Divine attributes which the believers in a living God always
ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that
this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet if
God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bonds-
man's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be


sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be
paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three
thousand years ago, so, still it must be said, that the judgments
of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.

With malice towards none, with charity for all, with firmness
in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us finish the work
we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who
shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphans,
to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and a lasting
peace among ourselves and with all nations.


[Woodrow Wilson (1856 ), the twenty-eighth President of the

United States, was born in Staunton, Virginia. After 'graduating from
Princeton in 1879, he studied law at the University of Virginia and began
practice at Atlanta, Georgia. Later he studied history and politics at Johns
Hopkins University, and taught those subjects successively at Bryn Mawr,
Wesleyan, and Princeton. In 1902 he became president of Princeton, and
continued in this position until his political career began in 1910 with his
election as governor of New Jersey. Two years later he was elected President
of the United States, and in 1916 he was reelected. His state papers espe-
cially those dealing with the relations between the United States and Ger-
many have commanded wide attention for their statesmanlike principles
and their forcible style. Of these several papers all of which are worthy of
attention this one of April 2, 1917, in which he laid before Congress the
facts and suggested a declaration of war, will always be memorable.]

I have called the Congress into extraordinary session be-
cause there are serious, very serious, choices of policy to be made,
and made immediately, which it was neither right nor constitu-
tionally permissible that I should assume the responsibility of

On the 3d of February last I officially laid before you the
extraordinary announcement of the Imperial German Govern-
ment that on and after the first day of February it was its
purpose to put aside all restraints of law or of humanity and use


its submarines to sink every vessel that sought to approach
either the ports of Great Britain and Ireland or the western
coasts of Europe or any of the ports controlled by the enemies
of Germany within the Mediterranean. That had seemed to be
the object of the German submarine warfare earlier in the war,
but since April of last year the Imperial Government had some-
what restrained the commanders of its undersea craft in con-
formity with its promise then given to us that passenger-boats
should not be sunk, and that due warning would be given to
all other vessels which its submarines might seek to destroy
where no resistance was offered or escape attempted, and care
taken that their crews were given at least a fair chance to save
their lives in their open boats.

The precautions taken were meager and haphazard enough,
as was proved in distressing instance after instance in the prog-
ress of the cruel and unmanly business, but a certain degree of
restraint was observed.

The new policy has swept every restriction aside. Vessels of
every kind, whatever their flag, their character, their cargo,
their destination, their errand, have been ruthlessly sent to the
bottom without warning, and without thought of help or mercy
for those on board, the vessels of friendly neutrals along with
those of belligerents. Even hospital-ships and ships carrying
relief to the sorely bereaved and stricken people of Belgium,
though the latter were provided with safe conduct through the
proscribed areas by the German Government itself and were dis-
tinguished by unmistakable marks of identity, have been sunk
with the same reckless lack of compassion or of principle.

I was for a little while unable to believe that such things
would, in fact, be done by any Government that had hitherto
subscribed to the humane practices of civilized nations. Inter-
national law had its origin in the attempt to set up some law
which would be respected and observed upon the seas, where no
nation had right of dominion, and where lay the free highways
of the world. By painful stage after stage has that law been
built up with meager enough results, indeed, after all was
accomplished that could be accomplished, but always with a


clear view at least of what the heart and conscience of mankind

This minimum of right the German Government has swept
aside under the plea of retaliation and necessity, and because it
had no weapons which it could use at sea except these, which it
is impossible to employ as it is employing them without throw-
ing to the winds all scruples of humanity or of respect for the
understandings that were supposed to underlie the intercourse
of the world.

I am not now thinking of the loss of property involved,
immense and serious as that is, but only of the wanton and whole-
sale destruction of the lives of non-combatants, men, women,
and children engaged in pursuits which have always, even in the
darkest periods of modern history, been deemed innocent and

Property can be paid for; the lives of peaceful and innocent
people cannot be.

The present German warfare against commerce is a warfare
against mankind. It is a war against all nations. American
ships have been sunk, American lives taken, in ways which it has
stirred us very deeply to learn of, but the ships and people of
other neutral and friendly nations have been sunk and over-
whelmed in the waters in the same way. There has been no dis-
crimination. The challenge is to all mankind. Each nation
must decide for itself how it will meet it. The choice we make
for ourselves must be made with a moderation of counsel and a
temperateness of judgment befitting our character and our
motives as a nation. We must put excited feeling away.

Our motive will not be revenge or the victorious assertion of
the physical might of the nation, but only the vindication of
right, of human right, of which we are only a single champion.

When I addressed the Congress on the 26th of February last
I thought that it would suffice to assert our neutral rights with
arms, our right to use the seas against unlawful interference,
our right to keep our people safe against unlawful violence. But
armed neutrality, it now appears, is impracticable. Because
submarines are in effect outlaws when used as the German


submarines have been used against merchant shipping, it is
impossible to defend ships against their attacks as the law of
nations has assumed that merchantmen would defend them-
selves against privateers or cruisers, visible craft giving chase
upon the open sea.

It is common prudence in such circumstances, grim necessity,
indeed, to endeavor to destroy them before they have shown their
own intention. They must be dealt with upon sight, if dealt
with at all.

The German Government denies the right of neutrals to use
arms at all within the areas of the sea which it has proscribed,
even in the defense of rights which no modern publicist has ever
before questioned their right to defend. The intimation is con-
veyed that the armed guards which we have placed on our mer-
chant-ships will be treated as beyond the pale of law and subject
to be dealt with as pirates would be.

Armed neutrality is ineffectual enough at best; in such cir-
cumstances and in the face of such pretensions it is worse than
ineffectual; it is likely to produce what it was meant to prevent;
it is practically certain to draw us into the war without either
the rights or the effectiveness of belligerents.

There is one choice we cannot make, we are incapable of mak-
ing: we will not choose the path of submission and suffer the
most sacred rights of our nation and our people to be ignored or
violated. The wrongs against which we now array ourselves
are not common wrongs; they reach out to the very roots of
human life.

With a profound sense of the solemn and even tragical char-
acter of the step I am taking and of the grave responsibilities
which it involves, but in unhesitating obedience to what I deem
my constitutional duty, 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 belliger-
ent which has thus been thrust upon it and that it take immedi-
ate steps not only to put the country in a more thorough state of
defense, but also to exert all its power and employ all its re-


sources to bring the Government of the German Empire to
terms and end the war.

What this will involve is clear. It will involve the utmost
practicable cooperation in counsel and action with the Govern-
ments now at war with Germany, and as incident to that the
extension to those Governments of the most liberal financial
credits in order that our resources may so far as possible be added
to theirs.

It will involve the organization and mobilization of all the
material resources of the country to supply the materials of
war and serve the incidental needs of the nation in the most
abundant and yet the most economical and efficient way possible.

It will involve the immediate full equipment of the navy in
all respects, but particularly in supplying it with the best means
of dealing with the enemy's submarines.

It will involve the immediate addition to the armed forces
of the United States already provided for by law in case of war
at least 500,000 men, who should, in my opinion, be chosen
upon the principle of universal liability to service, and also the
authorization of subsequent additional increments of equal
force so soon as they may be needed and can be handled in

It will involve also, of course, the granting of adequate credits
to the Government, sustained, I hope, so far as they can equit-
ably be sustained by the present generation, by well-conceived
taxation. I say sustained so far as may be equitable by taxa-
tion because it seems to me that it would be most unwise to base
the credits which will now be necessary entirely on money

It is our duty, I most respectfully urge, to protect our people
so far as we may against the very serious hardships and evils
which would be likely to arise out of the inflation which would
be produced by vast loans.

In carrying out the measures by which these things are to
be accomplished we should keep constantly in mind the wisdom
of interfering as little as possible in our own preparation and in
the equipment of our own military forces with the duty for it



will be a very practical duty of supplying the nations already
at war with Germany with the materials which they can obtain
only from us or by our assistance. They are in the field and we
should help them in every way to be effective there.

I shall take the liberty of suggesting, through the several
executive departments of the Government, for the considera-
tion of your committees, measures for the accomplishment of
the several objects I have mentioned. I hope that it will be your
pleasure to deal with them as having been framed after very
careful thought by the branch of the Government upon which
the responsibility of conducting the war and safeguarding the
nation will most directly fall.

While we do these things, these deeply momentous things,
let us be very clear and make very clear to all the world
what our motives and our objects are. My own thought has
not been driven from its habitual and normal course by the
unhappy events of the last two months, and I do not believe
that the thought of the nation has been altered or clouded
by them.

I have exactly the same thing in mind now that I had in
mind when I addressed the Senate on the 22d of January last;
the same that I had in mind when I addressed the Congress on
the 3d of February and on the 26th of February.

Our object now, as then, is to vindicate the principles of peace
and the justice in the life of the world as against selfish and
autocratic power and to set up amongst the really free and self-
governed peoples of the world such a concert of purpose and of
action as will henceforth insure the observance of those principles.

Neutrality is no longer feasible or desirable where the peace
of the world is involved and the freedom of its peoples, and the
menace to that peace and freedom lies in the existence of auto-
cratic Governments backed by organized force which is con-
trolled wholly by their will, not by the will of then- people. We
have seen the last of neutrality in such circumstances.

We are at the beginning of an age in which it will be insisted
that the same standards of conduct and of responsibility for
wrong done shall be observed among nations and their Govern-


ments that are observed among the individual citizens of civilized

We have no quarrel with the German people. We have no
feeling toward them but one of sympathy and friendship. It
was not upon their impulse that their Government acted in
entering this war. It was not with their previous knowledge or

It was a war determined upon as wars used to be determined
upon in the old, unhappy days when peoples were nowhere con-
sulted by their rulers and wars were provoked and waged in the
interest of dynasties or little groups of ambitious men who were
accustomed to use their fellowmen as pawns and tools.

Self-governed nations do not fill their neighbor states with
spies or set the course of intrigue to bring about some critical
posture of affairs which will give them an opportunity to
strike and make conquest. Such designs can be successfully
worked only under cover and where no one has the right to ask

Cunningly contrived plans of deception or aggression, carried,
it may be, from generation to generation, can be worked out and
kept from the light only within the privacy of courts or behind
the carefully guarded confidences of a narrow and privileged
class. They are happily impossible where public opinion com-
mands and insists upon full information concerning all the
nation's affairs.

A steadfast concert for peace can never be maintained except
by a partnership of democratic nations. No autocratic Govern-
ment could be trusted to keep faith within it or observe its
covenants. It must be a league of honor, a partnership of opinion.
Intrigue would eat its vitals away, the plottings of inner circles
who could plan what they would and render account to no one
would be a corruption seated at its very heart. Only free peoples
can hold their purpose and their honor steady to a common end
and prefer the interests of mankind to any narrow interest of
their own.

Does not every American feel that assurance has been added
to our hope for the future peace of the world by the wonderful


and heartening things that have been happening within the last
few weeks in Russia?

Russia was known by those who know it best to have been
always in fact democratic at heart, in all the vital habits of her
thought, in all the intimate relationships of her people that
spoke their natural instinct, their habitual attitude toward life.

Autocracy that crowned the summit of her political structure,
long as it had stood and terrible as was the reality of its
power, was not in fact Russian in origin, in character or purpose;
and now it has been shaken off and the great, generous Russian
people have been added, in all their native majesty and might,
to the forces that are fighting for freedom in the world, for justice
and for peace. Here is a fit partner for a League of Honor.

One of the things that have served to convince us that the
Prussian autocracy was not and could never be our friend is
that from the very outset of the present war it has filled our
unsuspecting communities and even our offices of Government
with spies and set criminal intrigues everywhere afoot against
our national unity of council, our peace within and without, our
industries and our commerce.

Indeed, it is now evident that its spies were here even before
the war began, and it is, unhappily, not a matter of conjecture,
but a fact proved in our courts of justice, that the intrigues which
have more than once come perilously near to disturbing the
peace and dislocating the industries of the country have been
carried on at the instigation, with the support, and even under the
personal direction, of official agents of the Imperial German
Government accredited to the Government of the United States.

Even in checking these things and trying to extirpate them
we have sought to put the most generous interpretation possible
upon them because we knew that their source lay, not in any
hostile feeling or purpose of the German people toward us (who
were, no doubt, as ignorant of them as we ourselves were),
but only in the selfish designs of a Government that did what it
pleased and told its people nothing. But they have played their
part in serving to convince us at last that that Government
entertains no real friendship for us and means to act against


our peace and security at its convenience. That it means to
stir up enemies against us at our very doors the intercepted note
to the German Minister at Mexico City is eloquent evidence.

We are accepting this challenge of hostile purpose because we
know that in such a Government, following such methods, we
can never have a friend; and that in the presence of its organized
power, always lying in wait to accomplish we know not what
purpose, there can be no assured security for the democratic
Governments of the world.

We are now about to accept the gage of battle with this
natural foe to liberty, and shall, if necessary, spend the whole
force of the nation to check and nullify its pretensions and its
power. We are glad, now that we see the facts with no veil of
false pretense about them, to fight thus for the ultimate peace of
the world and for the liberation of its peoples, the German
people included; for the rights of nations great and small and
the privilege of men everywhere to choose their way of life and
of obedience. The world must be made safe for democracy. Its
peace must be planted upon the trusted foundations of political

We have no selfish ends to serve. We desire no conquest, no
dominion. We seek no indemnities for ourselves, no material
compensation for the sacrifices we shall freely make. We are
but one of the champions of the rights of mankind. We shall be
satisfied when those rights have been made as secure as the
faith and the freedom of nations can make them.

Just because we fight without rancor and without selfish
objects, seeking nothing for ourselves but what we shall wish to
share with all free peoples, we shall, I feel confident, conduct our
operations as belligerents without passion and ourselves observe
with proud punctilio the principles of right and of fair play we
profess to be fighting for.

I have said nothing of the Governments allied with the
Imperial Government of Germany because they have not made
war upon us or challenged us to defend our right and our honor.

The Austro-Hungarian Government has indeed avowed its
unqualified indorsement and acceptance of the reckless and law-


less submarine warfare adopted now without disguise by the
Imperial German Government, and it has therefore not been
possible for this Government to receive Count Tarnowski, the
ambassador recently accredited to this Government by the
Imperial and Royal Government of Austro-Hungary; but that
Government has not actually engaged in warfare against citizens
of the United States on the seas, and I take the liberty, for the
present at least, of postponing a discussion of our relations with
the authorities at Vienna.

We enter this war only where we are clearly forced into it
because there are no other means of defending our rights.

It will be all the easier for us to conduct ourselves as belliger-
ents in a high spirit of right and fairness because we act without
animus, not in enmity toward a people or with the desire to bring
any injury or disadvantage upon them, but only in armed
opposition to an irresponsible Government which has thrown
aside all considerations of humanity and of right and is running

We are, let me say again, the sincere friends of the German
people, and shall desire nothing so much as the early reestablish-
ment of intimate relations of mutual advantage between us,
however hard it may be for them, for the tune being, to believe
that this is spoken from our hearts. We have borne with their
present Government through all these bitter months because of
that friendship, exercising a patience and forbearance which
would otherwise have been impossible.

We shall, happily, still have an opportunity to prove that
friendship in our daily attitude and actions towards the millions
of men and women of German birth and native sympathy who
live amongst us and share our life, and we shall be proud to
prove it toward all who are, in fact, loyal to their neighbors and
to the Government in the hour of test. They are, most of them,
as true and loyal Americans as if they had never known any
other fealty or allegiance. They will be prompt to stand with us
in rebuking and restraining the few who may be of a different
mind and purpose. If there should be disloyalty it will be dealt
with with a firm hand of stern repression, but, if it lif ts its head


at all, it will lift it only here and there and without countenance
except from a lawless and malignant few.

It is a distressing and oppressive duty, gentlemen of the Con-
gress, which I have performed in thus addressing you. There are,
it may be, many months of fiery trial and sacrifice ahead of us.
It is a fearful thing to lead this great, peaceful people into war,
into the most terrible and disastrous of all wars, civilization itself

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