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Part II: The Rationing System   (cont'd.)

Chapter 20: The Progress of the Enemy's Economic Campaign

Neutral shipping was not much disturbed by the first German operations against commerce.- – The dangers of the German system. – The sinking of the Lusitania. – The first deliberations of the American cabinet. – The first note of protest. – Negotiations for a compromise. – The German answer to the American note. – The reception of the German note in America. – The German government modify their orders to submarine commanders. – The American government were aware that recent undertakings were being ignored. – American deliberations on the German note. – The German deliberations upon the second American note. – The second German note, and its reception in the United States. – The American government decide that submarine operations are to be tolerated. – German deliberations for liquidating the controversy. The sinking of the Arabic. – The German high command are still divided. – The attack on Hesperian and the final compromise. – The British and German systems compared.

Three months after the German authorities issued their first declaration of submarine warfare, they were involved in a dangerous controversy with the government of the United States, and, from the documents subsequently made public, it is manifest that the controversy was no mere exchange of arguments about the immunity of passenger steamers, and the safety of American globe trotters; but that it was a real and genuine trial of the British and German systems of economic coercion, in which the neutral governments of the world were spectators, and the neutral government of the United States the judge. I shall therefore endeavour to show, in this chapter, that the trial proved the German system to be so haphazard, and so ill-administered, as to be insufferable; and that, inasmuch as the trial forced the American authorities (though much against their will) to consider the two rival systems of economic warfare conjointly, so, they were compelled, by sheer force of circumstances, to decide which was the more tolerable, and to act accordingly.

i) Neutral shipping was not much disturbed by the first German operations against commerce

During the first three months of submarine warfare upon commerce, the British system of coercion was far more oppressive to neutral trade than the German. In the month of March, the contraband committee put 103 neutral vessels out of service, for various periods of time; in April, 165, and in May, 160. As the cargoes withheld from those who wished to buy them were mostly cargoes of American produce, the detentions exasperated both the Scandinavian shipowners and the American sellers; and their irritation was the keener, in that they could foresee no end or abatement of the nuisance. The system of shipping goods under consular supervision gave but little relief, and the clamour for settled regulations, which could be complied with, was still virtually unanswered. More than this, some three thousand bales of American cotton were stopped during this same period; and, as a great deal of preliminary investigation about prices and consignees had to be undertaken, before payment could be made, so, a large number of discontented persons, and disappointed speculators, were inflaming their senators and congressmen against the British government. In contrast to this, the German submarine commanders disturbed neutral trade very little; and it will be as well to explain exactly what their practice was, and how they were treating neutral shipping.

When the submarine commanders started their operations, they did not, by any means, make blind, indiscriminate attacks upon all the shipping they could find. Quite the contrary: whenever a neutral could be overhauled, or stopped, the ship's papers were inspected, before the ship was sunk by bombs or gunfire. In all cases, [422] the papers, and an account of the sinking was sent to the German prize court, which generally gave a confirmatory decree, but, in some cases, adjudged the neutral entitled to damages. The rule seems to have been that a neutral was not entitled to damages, if his ship was carrying food, or contraband, to an allied harbour. Some neutrals were certainly sunk without warning; but this seems only to have been done, when the distinguishing marks were not seen, or were mistaken. In most of these cases compensation was paid. British and French ships were certainly sunk at sight; but about an equal number were stopped and captured. The explanation of this was that, at this date, the larger U-boats only carried seven or eight torpedoes, which their commanders were inclined to economise, in order that they might keep the sea for as long as possible. Torpedoes were therefore only used against ships that could not be overhauled or brought to. The German submarine commanders thus practised a rough discrimination between enemy and neutral shipping during the first weeks of the campaign, and a great number of their cruizes might be said to have resembled the operations of surface cruisers. Neutrals were inclined to be tolerant for several reasons: first, compensation was paid in extreme cases; secondly, although several neutral sailors were killed during the first months of the campaign, this did not excite much indignation. The seamen who thus lost their lives were, for the most part, poor, seafaring folk, who think of death at sea as a writ of destiny delivered and executed. No neutral government was embarrassed, and fashionable society in the northern capitals was not shocked by the death of a wealthy, influential citizen.

Neutral governments were, moreover, inclined to be patient, in that matters that had, at first, provoked great indignation and controversy were now being accepted as mere incidents in the war at sea. A considerable number of neutral vessels had been sunk by German mines, but the British government's endeavour to excite indignation against German minelaying had failed, and the following losses were suffered without protest:

Vessels lost on German Minefields
Danish     Dutch     Norwegian     Swedish     U.S.A.
11 3 16 13 3

For the time being, therefore, the German system was better adjusted to general circumstances than the British: the German submarine captains had bereaved a few poor Scandinavian families, who were more inclined to reproach the sea, and the natural elements, than the German naval commanders: we had openly defied the most influential plutocracy in the world.

ii) The dangers of the German system

If this graduated introduction of a new system of warfare had been deliberate, that is, if the Germans had been determined to enlarge their operations gradually, and to keep them well adjusted to the growing tendency towards acquiescence and resignation, they might have avoided, or at least have overcome, the difficulties in which they were subsequently involved. In point of fact, this good beginning was accidental, and was not attributable to the wisdom, or the good judgement, of those who were executing the campaign; for the German submarine commanders were not discriminating between neutral and enemy ships in obedience to the vague clause in their instructions, but only because, by discriminating, they saved torpedoes. This economy was, in itself, a source of danger; for as the submarine commanders were saving their torpedoes for vessels that seemed fast enough to get away, it followed, that great liners were more liable to be attacked without warning than any other vessel on the high seas, and every liner sunk, or even attacked, was a source of political controversy.

[423] Also, the German high command were determined to enlarge their operations as fast as they could; for in the brief interval of two months, the German naval leaders realised that their original excuse for starting submarine operations against commerce was no longer serviceable. They announced the campaign as a retaliation against Great Britain's attempt to reduce Germany by famine; a few weeks later, they triumphantly proclaimed, to the whole world, that there would be no famine in Germany, and that the British blockade had failed: they were, moreover, at great trouble to persuade the American ambassador, Mr. Gerard, that this was so. German naval officers grasped the implications of this, and were anxious, that neutrals should not be allowed to entertain any hope that they would relax their system, merely because their excuse for introducing it was gone. Being persuaded that a decision at sea would never be secured by any other measure of war, they were determined that the submarine campaign upon commerce should henceforward be represented as inevitable, and independent of special circumstances. Admiral Scheer was obviously expressing a general conviction when he wrote:

      In a comparatively short space of time, submarine warfare against commerce has become a form of warfare which is more than a mere retaliation; for it is adapted to the nature of modern war, and must remain a part of it.... For us Germans, submarine warfare upon commerce is a deliverance; it has put British predominance at sea in question, and it has shown to neutrals what are the consequences of yielding so weakly to British policy. More than this, it gives us an opportunity of calling a halt to any revival of the British desire to dominate the sea, and to attract the commerce of all the nations to British harbours. Being pressed by sheer necessity we must legalise this new weapon, or, to speak more accurately, accustom the world to it....

Admiral Scheer was, moreover, so confident that submarine warfare would be decisive, that he was very fearful of any bargain or compromise.

      If Great Britain agrees that cotton and foodstuffs shall pass from America to Germany, who will profit? America only; for this arrangement will remove every impediment from an enormous traffic in munitions, weapons and raw materials, all which will be directed towards England...... This will be of much greater advantage to Great Britain than to us; for a restriction in the supply of munitions to Great Britain is of far more profit to us than a freedom to import from America, in that we can hold out as we are to the end of the war....

The ends now proposed by the German navy were thus far more embracing than any contemplated when the first declaration was issued. The German high command were, in February, thinking of the immediate future; and were, in plain language, looking for something to do: in May, they were thinking of the distant future, and were determined to represent their conduct of war as inevitable in all circumstances. This must always be remembered when their fatal obstinacy is examined: holding such opinions, and pursuing such objects, they could not compromise.

The obstinacy of the high naval command was perhaps inevitable; and their disregard of danger natural to men who were, above all things, brave and resolute; but it should be added, that, during these first three months of submarine war, the German political leaders could have tested the dangers that beset their government, and that they neglected to do so. Colonel House reached Berlin on 20th March. Knowing, as they must have done, that the colonel shared President Wilson's most intimate thoughts, and could, if he chose, explain the president's intentions, it is truly surprising, that neither Bethmann Hollweg, nor Jagow, nor Zimmermann discussed submarine warfare with the colonel; and that not one of them attempted to discover what was meant by the note that had caused them such misgivings a few weeks before. Instead of this, they treated Colonel House with great reserve, and allowed him to leave Berlin very anxious about the future: they thus entirely neglected to make proper observations of the approaching cyclone.

Scriptorium comments:
see here for the German side of this story.
iii) The sinking of the Lusitania

For three whole months, therefore, the German submarine commanders executed their orders as best they could, and the political leaders seem to have given little or no thought to the future of the campaign. Their difficulties were, however, steadily [424] gathering. On 28th March the steamship Falaba was sunk; she was an English passenger steamer, but an American citizen, called Thrasher, was drowned. The United States government merely asked for particulars, and the month of April passed quietly. On 30th April, however, the American tank steamer Cushing was attacked by an aeroplane off the Noord Hinder, and, three days later, the American tank steamer Gulflight was torpedoed off the Scillies. Again the secretary of state asked for more details.

If the German authorities concluded, from these long and tedious enquiries, that the American authorities were inclined to acquiesce in what was being done at sea, then, they were very much deceived; for the American authorities were by no means so impassive as their official letters: if they were slow to protest, this was only because they were striving to grasp what were the implications of these successive incidents, and not because they were indifferent to them. When the sinking of the Falaba was reported, Mr. Brian sent two long letters to the president; and although, in one he urged caution, he stated in the other, that the whole cabinet ought carefully to consider whether it would not be best:

      To take the position that the attack is so contrary to international law that a neutral is justified in ignoring the warning, and relying upon his government to vindicate his right to travel on the belligerent ship, notwithstanding the risks involved. {Emphasis added by Scriptorium.]

Mr. Lansing, the counsellor, was stiffer; and as the president relied more upon him, than upon the secretary of state, in all matters that related to law, and to foreign policy, his opinion was weighty. Mr. Lansing did not think that these incidents should be treated lightly, merely because so few persons had been killed or injured: the American government had proclaimed, to their own people, that they would make the Germans strictly accountable for all lives and property that might be destroyed; having said this, the government could not fall back upon the more comfortable, but now untenable, position that circumstances alter cases: to these arguments the counsellor added, that the whole business was pregnant with more sinister possibilities than any with which the government had to deal; and that the German government might quite easily decide to make war against the United States, in order to secure more freedom at sea. Outwardly, therefore, the American administration was engaged in making enquiries that suggested an inclination to find both sides equally in the wrong: actually, the president, his advisers, and the high officials of the state department were watching these incidents with growing concern, and a war between Germany and the United States was, even then, thought possible.

All this was hidden from the German foreign office, who could only estimate the significance of these incidents by the questions about technical details that Mr. Gerard was instructed to ask. Nevertheless the chancellor was uneasy. On 6th May, he wrote to Admiral Bachmann, saying that he could not be responsible for the political management of the empire, if neutrals were further exasperated by U-boat warfare. On the same day, the American ambassador was given a memorandum for transmission to his government. In this paper, the German foreign office admitted that an American vessel had recently been torpedoed, but added, that the submarine commander had not been able to distinguish the neutral markings of the ship. The American government were, therefore, requested to urge shipowners to make these neutral markings as plain as possible, and to illuminate them during the dark hours. The memorandum thus contained an implied assurance, that the original declaration was not being executed ad literam, that distinctions were being made, and precautions taken. As it was prepared in the German foreign office, it is proof that neither von Jagow, nor Zimmermann, knew what was actually occurring at sea.

They were soon enlightened. When this reassuring state paper was presented at the German embassy, Captain Schwieger was hovering off the coast of Ireland in U20. On the morning of 7th May, he was off the Old Head of Kinsale; in the early [425] afternoon, he managed to manoeuvre his submarine on to the starboard bow of an approaching vessel, which he took for an ordinary steamer. Shortly after two o'clock, he torpedoed her, and discovered, after the torpedo had struck, that he had sunk an enormous passenger steamer: she was, in fact, a great Cunarder, the Lusitania; over a thousand persons were drowned, amongst them Americans of enormous wealth and influence. Captain Schwieger entered in his log that he watched the calamity with very mixed feelings; but it is patent, from that same document, that the disaster was a natural consequence of the instructions, that the submarine commanders were striving to execute. It is only astonishing that it did not occur sooner.

The disaster would, in any case, have been shocking, and the special circumstances excited universal horror and compassion. The dead were brought in by tugs and photographed; the photographs were subsequently circulated in a large number of illustrated papers, in order that relatives might identify their dead. These memorials of the calamity were particularly terrible, in that those who were drowned had only been recovered after long delay; some had been half devoured by fishes in the interval, and putrefaction and dissolution were evident in all.

The American nation was at first more alarmed than indignant.1 Being aware, therefore, that the people were very divided, the president and the secretary of state received Count Bernstorff calmly, and told him they hoped the matter would be adjusted. The president was, however, determined to be guided by the strength of the national feeling, and both he and his ministers were persuaded, that excitement and anger would rise, as details became known. For the moment, his immediate purpose was to gain time and to wait for what he called: An unequivocal expression of public opinion. This, at all events, was how Sir Cecil Spring-Rice appreciated the president's intentions. Bernstorff, it would seem, was of the same opinion; for he warned his government that the position was serious to a degree, which reads like a caution against inferring anything hopeful from the president's courteous and temperate manner.

The German press, and in particular Dr. Dernburg, the German embassy's publicity officer, now circulated an apology, or an excuse, which very much inflamed the American nation. It was beyond all doubt that the Lusitania had been carrying ammunition to Great Britain: Dr. Dernburg therefore assembled all the representatives of the New York press, and told them, that if Americans travelled on ships carrying no contraband, they would be as safe as if they were in a cradle; but that all ships carrying contraband would be sunk at sight: if Americans travelled on these, they would be travelling on a volcano; the crews of ordinary cargo boats that carried contraband would be no safer. The doctor had the effrontery to add that his explanation was good law. The German foreign office elaborated this by the statement that the Lusitania was armed, which was quite untrue. These excuses roused the American people, and, on 10th May, Sir Cecil Spring-Rice noticed that the whole press was angry and threatening. Mr. Wilson, however, was by no means convinced, that this rising anger in the press was shared by the nation at large, and in order to test the national temper better, and to discover what course of conduct was likely to increase his reputation with the common people, he addressed a large audience at Philadelphia on 10th May, and inserted the following passage into it.

      The example of America must be a special example. The example of America must be the example not only of peace because it will not fight, but of peace, because peace is the healing and elevating influence of the world, and strife is not. There is such a thing as a man being too proud to fight. There is such a thing as a nation being so right that it does not need to convince others by force that it is right.

[426] This utterance was received with round after round of cheering; and this seems to have persuaded the president, that he would best maintain his popularity, and his ascendancy over his political rivals, who, then, had little to suggest, by finding a way out without too much compromising the national dignity. On the following day, the American cabinet assembled.

iv) The first deliberations of the American cabinet

Before reviewing the deliberations of this meeting, it will be proper to examine the documents that are known to have been circulated and discussed. The first, and most important of these was a statement, which had been received on the previous evening (10th May), from the German government. In this paper, the German government stated unequivocally that neutral shipping was not to be attacked:

      The most definite instructions have repeatedly been issued to German war vessels to avoid attacks on such ships under all circumstances. Even when ships have contraband of war on board, they are dealt with by submarines solely according to the rules of international law applying to prize cases. Should a neutral ship nevertheless come to harm, through German submarines or aircraft, on account of an unfortunate mistake...... the German government will unreservedly recognise its responsibility therefor. In such a case it will express its regrets and grant damages without first instituting a prize court action.......

The American government had therefore received a document, which, ostensibly, relieved them of some anxiety, during their critical deliberations on the following day. The undertaking given was a promise that ships flying the American flag were not threatened: the immediate issue was thus reduced to the safety of Americans travelling on British liners. In point of fact, however, the document was very misleading. It has already been explained, that, a few hours before the disaster became known, the chancellor asked Admiral Bachmann to give strict orders about neutral shipping. He was answered three days later, and the reply must have made him very uneasy. Admiral Bachmann told him that any modification of the orders then in force was not to be thought of, and that such precautions as were possible were being taken. The chancellor did the only thing open to him, and appealed to the emperor, who sent a special order to Admiral Bachmann during the early hours of 10th May:

      His Majesty desires, that, for the immediate future, no neutral vessel shall be sunk. [This is necessary] on political ground, for which the chancellor is responsible. It is better that an enemy ship shall be allowed to pass than that a neutral shall be destroyed. A renewal of a sharper procedure is kept in view.

The chancellor had therefore every reason to imagine that this order had been circulated to the fleet, and felt at liberty to draft the document that was delivered in Washington on the 10th. He was, however, very much deceived; for Admiral Bachmann did not issue the emperor's order to the fleet, and, during the rest of the month, the submarine commanders acted on their original instructions. For the time being, this was hidden from the American president; but it will be shown, later, that he must have guessed it soon afterwards.

A more inflammatory, but equally important, document was also laid before the American cabinet: it was a telegram from Colonel House, which President Wilson read aloud to his ministers. In this telegram, the colonel advised very firm conduct, even though war resulted from it.

      I believe an immediate demand should be made upon Germany for assurance that this shall not occur again. If she fails to give such assurance, I should inform her that our Government expected to take such measures as were necessary to ensure the safety of American citizens.
      If war follows, it will not be a new war, but an endeavour to end more speedily an old one. Our intervention will save, rather than increase, the loss of life.
      America has come to the parting of the ways, when she must determine whether she stands for civilized or uncivilized warfare. We can no longer remain neutral spectators. Our action in this crisis will determine the part we will play when peace is made, and how far we may influence a settlement for the lasting good of humanity. We are being weighed in the balance, and our position amongst nations is being assessed by mankind.

[427] In addition, the substance of the documents that had passed between White House, and the state department, during the preceding two days, were probably known to the American ministers. In these documents, Mr. Bryan suggested, in rather vague and unsatisfactory language, that an escape might be found, by warning American citizens not to travel in ships belonging to the powers at war. Mr. Lansing repeated what he had recommended before, that a very stiff demand for disavowal be presented at Berlin, and that diplomatic relations be severed, if it was refused. As for Mr. Bryan's compromise, Mr. Lansing's view was that it could not be proceeded with.

      After carefully considering the suggestion I am convinced that this government is in no position to adopt that view. To accept it would be to admit that the government of the United States failed in its duty to its own citizens and permitted them to run risks without attempting to prevent them from doing so.
      By its note to the German government on 10th February this government declared that it would hold Germany to a strict accountability for the loss of American lives and property within the war zone. It did not discriminate as to the vessels carrying American citizens and property. If it intended to discriminate, it was its manifest duty to its own people to have said so, and to have issued a public warning to them to keep off British ships and to say to them: If you go, you go at your peril.
      On the contrary, this government has permitted in silence hundreds of American citizens to travel in British steamships crossing the war zone. It has by its silence allowed them to believe that their government approved and would stand behind them in case their legal rights were invaded.
      I do not see how this government can avoid responsibility now by asserting that an American in travelling by a British vessel took a risk, which he should not have taken. If it held that point of view it should have declared it at the time it protested against the war zone.

The written opinions, and recommendations that the American cabinet had before them were, thus, all, or nearly all, to the effect that the only course now open to the government was to protest sternly; to demand a disavowal and guarantees for the future; and to sever all relations with Germany, if the answer were unsatisfactory. As far as can be ascertained, the president agreed with these opinions, in a general way; but, in order that he might dominate the cabinet, he had a draft note ready, for he knew well, that, when an assembly is uncertain and unsteady, a written statement that has been prepared beforehand is usually agreed to. This draft was nearly the same as the note finally presented, but, before the cabinet approved it, Mr. Bryan urged an alternative, which was, that the cabinet should treat the British and German systems of economic coercion as equally objectionable, and should balance whatever protest was lodged in Berlin by an equally vigorous remonstrance against British practices: Mr. Bryan considered, that, if the cabinet would assume, for the purposes of controversy, that the British were attempting to sever all American trade with Europe, then, this second protest could easily be made as forceful, and as challenging, as the note to Germany.

The finance minister answered this, and showed that Mr. Bryan's suggestions were unworkable. The trade statistics for the first ten months of the war had just been published and it was from these that the finance minister quoted. First, it was patent that the decline in American trade (which had influenced the administration at the beginning of the year) had been reversed. The total imports had fallen; the total exports had risen by thirteen per cent. above the figures for the last year of peace. The balance of trade was, indeed, a record, and exceeded the highest favourable balance hitherto recorded. The exports had risen to this unprecedented volume solely by sales in the European market; and these sales had been made in respect of goods, which had been the subject of so much political controversy a few months previously: corn, wheat, oats, flour and meat. Furthermore, it was patent, that the American exporters had only been able to supply the high demands of European purchasers by reducing their sales in other markets; for the figures showed, that, whereas sales in Europe had risen by three hundred and eighty-five [428] thousand dollars, sales in north and south America had fallen. It was therefore quite impossible for any American government to stand on the contention that their country's trade with Europe was being stopped, when such figures could be quoted to refute the contention. It is true the allies were the principal purchasers; but this would not have assisted the American cabinet, if they had followed the secretary of state's counsel; for, had they attempted to do so, they would have been compelled to argue, that, large as their trade with Europe was, it would be still larger, if the allies imposed no restraints upon American trade with Germany, a very poor complaint. Apart from this, it must have been plain sense to the American ministers, that the great trading magnates of the country were profiting, and not losing, by the war, and that the political agitations that radiated from a few circles were, in consequence, not comparable to the general satisfaction of a great trading nation that was drawing enormous profits. The American ministers therefore assembled knowing, that the controversy with Germany was inevitably driving their country towards the allied side: they were offered an alternative, which they examined and found unworkable; for the secretary of state's proposal must surely have seemed bad, whether it was tested by logic, or by expediency. The discussion was, however, very heated, for the secretary of state accused his colleagues of partiality, when he found them so unwilling to adopt his recommendations; and the president sternly rebuked him.

Realising therefore, that the remonstrance to Germany could not be balanced by another to Great Britain, the American ministers had no option but to approve the president's note: they all acknowledged his talent for writing good prose, and knew that not one of them could compose anything of equal quality. They agreed, moreover, that if the German government refused to grant what was now being demanded of them, then, those demands would have to be repeated so sternly and so peremptorily that something approximating to war would be the outcome. The president therefore perfected his first draft, and the note was published two days later.2

v) The first note of protest

In this document the American government virtually demanded that submarine operations against commerce should cease; but they elaborated this by passages that were an open invitation to a compromise. The bare demand was, however, made in very stiff language.

      The government of the United States desires to call the attention of the imperial German government, with the utmost earnestness, to the fact that the objection to their present method of attack against the trade of their enemies lies in the practical impossibility of employing submarines in the destruction of commerce without disregarding those rules of fairness, reason, justice, and humanity, which all modern opinion regards as imperative. It is practically impossible for the officers of a submarine to visit a merchantman at sea and examine her papers and cargo. It is practically impossible for them to make a prize of her; and, if they cannot put a prize crew on board of her, they cannot sink her without leaving her crew and all on board of her to the mercy of the sea in her small boat. These facts it is understood the imperial German government frankly admit. We are informed that, in the instances of which we have spoken, time enough for even that poor measure of safety was not given, and in at least two of the cases cited, not so much as a warning was received. Manifestly submarines cannot be used against merchantmen, as the last few weeks have shown, without an inevitable violation of many sacred principles of justice and humanity.

[429] The argument differs not at all, and the words only slightly, from those employed by the British government, when they announced the reprisals order to neutral powers.

The American note was, however, so worded that the United States government were still free, notwithstanding that they made this stern demand, to be satisfied with a mere temperament to submarine operations, if that proved to be all they could secure. First, the American government explained that they were only concerned with the safety of American citizens, thus leaving it to be understood, that they did not intend to aggravate the position, by raising the general question of neutral rights; secondly, they expressed themselves ready to accept an apology, and an assurance, that the Falaba, the Cushing and the Lusitania had been torpedoed by mistake.

      Long acquainted, as this government has been with the character of the imperial government, and with the high principles of duty by which they have, in the past, been actuated and guided, the government of the United States cannot believe that the commanders of the vessels which committed these acts of lawlessness did so except under a misapprehension of the orders issued by the imperial German naval authorities. It takes it for granted that, at least within the practical possibilities of every such case, the commanders even of submarines were expected to do nothing that would endanger non-combatants, or the safety of neutral ships, even at the cost of failing of their object of capture or destruction.

These sentences at least suggested that the United States authorities did not mean to stand upon their demand that submarine operations be discontinued, and would be satisfied with something less; for they admitted, by implication, that they would recognise a submarine commander's right to destroy a vessel, if he took certain precautions. But after thus easing their first demand, the United States government added another which was very provocative; for they asked that the German government should: Disavow the acts of which the government complained - a condition that no state could agree to without humiliation. The note was, in fact, so drafted that the president could still, without inconsistency, be harsh and peremptory, if public opinion urged him on; or easy and conciliatory, if the nation remained fearful of a break. It was a note ancipitis usus, equally good for peace or war.

vi) Negotiations for a compromise

This document was received in Berlin on 15th May. Simultaneously, or nearly so, a negotiation for a compromise was started in London. It ended in nothing, and is therefore of no importance; the incident is, however, significant as an illustration that, even at this date, persons in authority had no confidence in economic coercion as an engine of war, and were so timid of its consequences, that they would willingly have abandoned it, or, at least, have so mitigated it as to make it harmless.

It has already been shown that Sir Edward Grey doubted whether it would be wise to stand implacably upon the reprisals order, and wage economic warfare without truce or treaty, and that he had, in consequence, shown himself inclined to a bargain. He has never explained his misgivings; but from certain passages in his memoirs, and from his official minutes upon the concession made to America in October, it is to be inferred, that he thought the economic campaign that was announced in the reprisals order would soon prove too dangerous to be proceeded with. Holding such opinions, it was natural that he should have preferred voluntary concessions, offered during the first preliminary manoeuvres of the economic campaign, to concessions extorted under duress and pressure, when the campaign was raging. Colonel House, who probably appreciated Sir Edward's misgivings as well as anybody, was in London when the first American note was published. He therefore took the opportunity of repeating the proposals that had been discussed so secretly when the reprisals order was being prepared: That the British government should allow foodstuffs to pass to Germany, on condition that the submarine operations against commerce be discontinued. President Wilson sent a private and personal message [430] to his envoy telling him, that, if the British authorities agreed at once, they would make: A great stroke, and put Germany entirely in the wrong. This message was duly shown to Sir Edward Grey at his private residence.

Sir Edward well understood that the proposal was made purely in the American interest. The president now saw that submarine operations against commerce were the great obstacle to his plans for mediation, in that the political controversy that they excited was driving him towards the allied side, and so prejudicing his position as mediator. The proposal was thus, quite patently, a proposal that Great Britain should assist the United States to remain neutral. After making it clear, therefore, that he was not deceived about the president's real motives, Sir Edward promised to urge the British cabinet to endorse the proposal, and the heads of an agreement were drawn up: Great Britain was to allow foodstuffs to pass freely to all neutral harbours in Europe; and the cotton cargoes then detained were to be paid for at once. In return for this, the German government were to discontinue submarine operations against commerce, and were to give a solemn undertaking, that no more poisoned gas be used by the German forces. This document was drafted with the greatest secrecy; it was not communicated to the foreign office officials; and it is not certain when it was presented to the British cabinet. Mr. Asquith's liberal cabinet was, at the time, in dissolution, and a coalition government being formed. Colonel House, however, thought himself at liberty to press on with this project, without waiting to be informed that the British cabinet agreed to it; for a telegram was at once sent to Mr. Gerard, at Berlin, instructing him to urge the German authorities to incorporate these proposals in the note that they were then preparing.

Almost immediately, however, the American authorities discovered that this proposal, from which they hoped so much, was unworkable. The German chancellor could not agree, that Germany should abandon submarine warfare, on condition that she was allowed to receive American foodstuffs, because every expert in Germany was then satisfied that the population could do without them. Jagow and Zimmermann therefore answered, that submarine warfare might be abandoned, if Germany were allowed to import cotton, rubber, and copper, as well as foodstuffs. Both Colonel House and the American ministers were convinced that this would never be agreed to by Great Britain, and that it would be unwise to propose it. Supplementary instructions were therefore sent to Mr. Gerard, telling him that the German government must not be allowed to imagine, that the unsettled issues between America and Germany could be pushed aside, or superseded, by an agreement between belligerents: No matter what England does to Germany or Germany to England, our rights are unaltered and we cannot abate them in the least. The president thought it so important, that this should be emphasised, that he himself drafted a second instruction, which ran:

      Please point out kindly and unofficially, but very earnestly, to the Foreign Office that the conditions now prevailing in the marine war zone are rapidly becoming intolerable to the whole world, that their rectification is in the interest of both parties to the present conflict, and that this government, while it has nothing to propose as between the belligerents, but will confine itself to the protection of its own clear rights, will act with pleasure in conveying any proposals that either the one government or the other has to make for the correction of the present conditions fraught as they are with universal danger.

While they were drafting their reply to the American note the German authorities were thus twice warned that the American authorities would resent an evasive reply.

vii) The German answer to the American note

Very little is known about the councils in which the first German note was drafted and approved. It seems certain, however, that it was not examined at a general meeting of naval and political leaders; for Tirpitz has published no records of any discussion upon it: probably, therefore, the note was drafted by the chancellor, by [431] Jagow and by Admiral von Muller [sic]. Admiral von Tirpitz and Admiral Bachmann did however inform the emperor, while the note was being compiled, that submarine operations must either be abandoned outright, or continued without modification. During this critical time, the submarine commanders were still operating under their original instructions, so that the German government were only protected against new and equally serious calamity, with its attendant dangers, by a mere hazard of fortune. The German note was substantially a plea that further enquiries be made, and the circumstances ascertained better. The sinkings of the Gulflight and Cushing were represented as destructions with regard to which an international court of enquiry might possibly make an award for compensatory payments. The sinking of the Lusitania was excused, by reiterating the argument about the abuse of neutral flag, an argument already worn out by overwork, and by repeating the exasperating statement, that the Lusitania was an armed, auxiliary, cruiser, which habitually carried munitions of war to Great Britain. The German government therefore held the facts recited:

      To be of sufficient importance to recommend them to a careful examination by the American government. The imperial government begs to reserve a final statement in regard to its position with regard to the demands made in connection with the sinking of the Lusitania, until a reply is received from the American government, and believes that it should recall here that it took note, with satisfaction, of the proposals of good offices submitted by the American government in Berlin and London with a view to paving the way for a modus vivendi for the conduct of maritime war between Germany and Great Britain.

While this note was being prepared, Mr. Gerard did everything in his power to penetrate the intentions of the German government, and telegraphed his appreciations, and forecasts, to Washington. They were explicit and consistent. On 15th May, he wired, after an interview with Jagow: I am myself positive that Germany will continue this form of warfare..... Four days later, he elaborated this: I am sure Germany will not abandon present method of submarine war...... The prospect of war with America is contemplated with equanimity...... Finally, two days before the German note was delivered he telegraphed: Best naval sources state no change will be made in method of submarine war, even if consequences involve war with the United States. These reports were presumably treated as an interlineal commentary upon the German state paper.

viii) The reception of the German note in America

When the German note was read and digested, and compared with the reports of the Ambassador at Berlin, the American government must therefore have realised, that their principal demand had been refused. The German government ignored both the large issue, and the demand for disavowal; for they maintained only, that the sinking of the Lusitania was justifiable, and the sinkings of the Cushing and Gulflight excusable. As for the proposal that submarine operations against commerce might be bartered against the British system of economic coercion, it had already been examined and found unworkable.

Every competent observer of American politics was persuaded, that the president had determined to be guided by popular feeling, and to rally the great mass of the people round the government, by expressing their prevailing sentiments in that dignified, eloquent, language of which he was a master. Sir Cecil Spring-Rice warned us of this so often that it would be fruitless to repeat his appreciations; Bernstorff, an equally good observer, was as emphatic as Sir Cecil. It was, however, most difficult for any observer, whether foreign or native, to decide whether the American nation's dread of war, or their anger at the indignity offered, was the prevailing sentiment; but at least everybody was satisfied that the German note irritated the whole people. Being timid of a break, and yet unwilling that their government should be publicly humiliated, the Americans were anxious, above all things, that [432] the president should obtain some satisfaction upon the point of honour. The German note was particularly exasperating, in that it disappointed a people hitherto confident, that their government would be respectfully treated. The German government's request that certain technical questions be enquired into so evaded the issues raised by the president, that the American people thought the answer downright contemptuous. All the influential organs in the eastern states described the German note as evasive and defiant. The German foreign office thus succeeded only in exciting the passions that were most embarrassing to them; they would, perhaps, have done better had they taken Admiral Scheer's advice: that this new kind of war be excused in no ordinary diplomatic language, and that: A word artist of the first order, a brilliant, spirited writer, be entrusted with the reply.

Although the rising indignation in America was patent to all, it was still doubtful whether the president was yet empowered by public sentiment to be implacable. He himself hesitated; for he received Bernstorff calmly soon after the note was received, and assured him, that he hoped for a way out; he added he would be willing to obstruct, or at least to oppose, Great Britain's economic campaign energetically, if submarine operations against commerce were abandoned. These concessions, made under American pressure, would be by him treated: As the beginning of a peace move, which he would lead at the head of all neutrals [Ein Anfang für eine Friedensaktion im grossen Stile welche er an der Spitze der Neutralen in die Wege leiten möchte]. While the president still hesitated, the German leaders became involved in a fierce controversy among themselves; and, for reasons that will be given later, it is certain, that the controversy, and its outcome, influenced President Wilson considerably at a critical time; it will therefore be convenient to give a particular account of what was then being agitated at Berlin.

ix) The German Government modify their orders to submarine commanders

As the first German note was a mere plea for delay, the German chancellor, after despatching it, could no longer postpone assembling those councils, which alone were competent to decide what answer should eventually be given on the major issues. This was the more urgent, in that he now realised that the order, which he believed to have been issued to submarine commanders at the beginning of the month, was, in fact, being disobeyed. During the month, Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish steamers were sunk without warning, notwithstanding that the German foreign office had given the American authorities a solemn assurance, that neutral shipping was being spared: all this was, moreover, being done while the American consuls in Germany were preparing to evacuate American residents in Germany, and were feverishly collecting their addresses.

The conference convened by the chancellor dissolved such union as the naval and civil leaders had hitherto preserved. The admirals had not objected to a diplomatic note that had been a mere chicane upon a few unsettled technical questions. They were, however, determined to resist any proposal for moderating, or restricting, submarine operations, and, before the general council assembled, the chancellor was given an opportunity of judging how stubborn their resistance was going to be. A preliminary conference was held late at night on 30th May; and the chancellor so impressed General Falkenhayn with the dangers of persisting in the campaign that he had formed a party in the council which was not purely civilian. The admirals, on the other hand, were immoveable, and warned the chancellor that they would oppose any mitigation of submarine operations, in that it would weaken the contention upon which they wished the government to stand: That submarine operations against commerce were an act of war, unprecedented perhaps, but beyond all question legitimate.

[433] The general meeting, with the emperor presiding, assembled on the following day. Falkenhayn, Admiral von Müller and von Treutler, all supported the chancellor's contention that the operations must be conducted differently: Admiral von Tirpitz and Admiral Bachmann repeated, stubbornly, that they could not discuss a modification of the orders then in force, and were only interested to know whether submarine operations were to be continued or not. This blind obstinacy was more cunning than would at first appear, for it excited the emperor's notorious dread of popular criticism. The German press and a large section of the Reichstag deputies were then furiously agitating in support of Tirpitz: the emperor, who was always fearful of his own people, did not dare to defy the clamour, and said, that if U-boat warfare were abandoned, the chancellor must show that he alone was responsible. Admiral von Müller with difficulty persuaded the emperor, that, as the chancellor did not wish that submarine war be abandoned, this was not the issue. The admiral added, that he could incorporate the chancellor's wishes into an order to the U-boat commanders, if it were his business to do so. The outcome was that a mitigatory order was issued on the following day: it repeated and elaborated the order that Admiral Bachmann had received and suppressed, a few weeks before, and was the first restraint ordered by the German government, since the declaration in February. This, however, was only a preliminary precaution, necessary because none whatever had been taken, but by no means sufficient. American globe trotters were then making their seasonal migration towards Europe, and the chancellor well understood, that this order about neutral shipping would have to be supplemented by an order that no passenger ship whatever be torpedoed. Realising, however, that the admirals responsible for operations would never agree to this, or would cause a dangerous delay by opposing it unflinchingly, the chancellor persuaded the emperor to order this on his own authority.

As passenger ships carry only a very small proportion of the British import and export trade, this new order was of no prejudice to the submarine operations against commerce; nor did it very much restrain the operations of particular commanders, because the U-boats then cruising, being slow craft, could only occasionally attack passenger steamers, which habitually moved at high speed. Notwithstanding all this, Admiral von Tirpitz and Admiral Bachmann conjointly represented this as a surrender of Germany's last weapon against England; as an admission that the Lusitania had been illegally sunk; and a dangerous proclamation of weakness. Both asked to be relieved, as they could not be responsible for executing the order; it was, however, circulated to the fleet on the following day, and the two admirals were instructed to remain at their posts. During the anxious days that followed the delivery of the first German note, therefore, the German chancellor won a precarious ascendancy in the imperial councils, and a few precautions were taken against a recurrence of the disaster that had precipitated the crisis. It is of some importance to discover how all this was represented to President Wilson.

x) The American government were aware that recent undertakings were being ignored

First, and perhaps most important, it was a matter of common knowledge, that neutral vessels were still being attacked by submarines: there was no secrecy about such incidents; for the pressmen of all nations reported them. In fact, the German submarine commanders were credited with more sinkings than they were actually responsible for, in that vessels sunk on mines were often thought to have been torpedoed. The following neutral ships were sunk and captured between 7th May, when the Lusitania was sunk, and 8th June, when the American cabinet assembled to consider their second remonstrance.

Danish    Norwegian    Swedish    Portuguese
By S/M By Mines By S/M By Mines By S/M By Mines By S/M By Mines
5 2 7 1 1 2 1 None

[434] The president must, therefore, have known, that neutral ships had been sunk, after he had received an official promise that every precaution was being taken. He may, conceivably, have been misinformed as to numbers and particular circumstances: the bare fact was, however, notorious, and, even though he may have been inclined to take the charitable view that neutral vessels were being torpedoed by mistake, he must have been painfully impressed by the number of accidents that had occurred in a single month. He may have attributed this to duplicity, or to bad management, which was in fact the proper explanation, but in either case, he must have formed an ill opinion of the government with which he was treating.

Secondly, it was not concealed that the emperor's advisers had been in conference and were divided; for this also was a matter of common knowledge. But, as the state papers that were exchanged between the chancellor and the naval leaders, the minutes of the conferences, and the orders to the U-boat commanders were kept very secret, the outcome of the controversy was a matter of conjecture. It was, therefore, very unfortunate for the German government that the chancellor's temporary ascendancy was not generally known, and that, on the contrary, the naval party were believed to have overriden [sic] him. Mr. Gerard was not able to contradict this general belief, in fact, he probably shared it, for he in no way modified the appreciations made by him before the conference assembled, that the operations against commerce would be continued without alteration. He was so convinced of this, that, on 1st June, he forwarded a statement recently made to him by Admiral Behncke, the assistant chief of the staff, and was satisfied that the admiral's concluding remarks were an accurate statement of German practice and intentions.

      Afterwards Admiral Behncke spoke about the growing power of the submarines as follows: With the increasing efficiency of the German submarine fleet, due to the numbers now under construction, and to the greatly increased efficiency of the units, it is certain that we can blockade England absolutely, so that not a single ship can get in or out. If we surrender our rights to conduct the warfare of the sea with the submarine, we bar ourselves for ever from securing our rights under international law for the free navigation of the ocean for our merchant marine. We can therefore make no concessions which will lead to the abandonment of the submarine blockade......

The ambassador was quite ignorant of the setback suffered two days later by the naval party; he only knew that Falkenhayn supported the chancellor. Finally, the president's confidential adviser, now returned from a visit to Germany, where he had been taking observations upon the balance of the parties, reported most emphatically that the naval leaders would never be subordinated to the political; indeed, he credited them with more independence than they actually enjoyed.

      The difficulty is not with the German civil authorities (wrote Colonel House immediately after his return) but with the naval and military as represented by the Kaiser, von Tirpitz and Falkenhayn. In my opinion Tirpitz will continue his submarine policy leaving the foreign office to make explanations for any unfortunate incidents as best they may.

xi) American deliberations on the German note

While the president and his ministers were deliberating upon the German note, every circumstance therefore combined to stiffen them. The public temper was rising; the concession that they had in fact secured, and the chancellor's temporary predominance in the imperial councils, were not reported to them; nor did they know that Falkenhayn dreaded a break with the United States, and was prepared to resist all counsels that made it likely. According to his custom, the president presented a draft note very early in the deliberations; in this draft, the abstract contentions of the previous note were sharply repeated, and an intimation was added, that the American government would stand implacably firm, no matter what the consequences might be. As nobody had anything preferable to offer, [435] this draft was finally accepted, with very little alteration. Nevertheless, some four cabinet meetings were held before the note was approved and despatched, because the secretary of state and the president were then much divided; and because the note then being considered by the cabinet became the battle ground between them. Mr. Bryan alleged that the whole note was provocative, and that it ought to be redrafted: President Wilson, supported by all his ministers, replied that no other note was possible in the circumstances. It was not until 8th June that the dispute was settled in the president's favour; and that Mr. Bryan resigned. He was, by then, quite compromised, for during the past weeks, he had sought out Dr. Dumba, the Austrian ambassador, and had engaged in conversations with him, which were quite inconsistent with loyalty to his chief or to his colleagues. He resigned on 7th June, but was present at the cabinet meeting of the following day: his place was taken by Mr. Lansing. Mr. Bryan withdrew from office protesting his desire for peace, in which he may have been sincere. He told his wife, however, that if he then resigned, the real sentiments of the people would come to the surface, and this sounds as though his ambition was to become a tribune of the people, and to embarrass the government that thought so little of his diplomacy. Actually, he discredited and ruined himself by retiring at such a moment, for it is only rarely, and then in very corrupt societies, that a man gains popularity by abandoning his post at a moment of danger. To Great Britain the secretary of state's resignation was a great advantage: it gave a great setback to the policy of finding fault equally with each side; and all our officials were glad of this, because although the policy had the weaknesses inherent in all subtle, cunning, conceptions, it was yet thought dangerous, as Mr. Bryan intended to pursue it with the greatest detachment and singleness of purpose.

In their new note, the American government did not refuse outright to consider the special facts and circumstances to which their attention had been drawn, but they drew from them an inference, which the German government was bound to resist: That merchantmen might only be sunk by submarines if all the rules of old fashioned cruiser warfare were first observed.

      With regard to the sinking of the Falaba by which an American citizen lost his life, the government of the United States is surprised to find the imperial German government contending that an effort on the part of a merchantman to escape capture and secure assistance alters the obligation of the officer seeking to make the capture, in respect of the safety of the lives of those on board the merchantman, although the vessel had ceased to make her escape when torpedoed. These are not new circumstances. They have been in the minds of statesmen and of international jurists through the development of naval warfare, and the government of the United States does not understand that they have ever been held to alter the principles of humanity upon which it has insisted. Nothing but actual, forcible, resistance, or continued efforts to escape by flight when ordered to stop for the purpose of visit, on the part of the merchantman, has ever been held to forfeit the lives of her passengers or crew.

In the opening paragraphs of his note, President Wilson, therefore, virtually demanded that submarine operations against commerce cease altogether; in the closing paragraphs, he was not so sweeping, and suggested, that he would be content, if passenger ships and vessels on the American register were made immune. He suggested this in the following passages:

      The sinking of passenger ships [not, let it be noted, of neutral ships] involves principles of humanity which throw into the background any special circumstances of detail that may be thought to affect the cases, principles which lift it, as the imperial government will no doubt be quick to recognise and acknowledge, out of the class of ordinary subjects of diplomatic discussion or of international controversy. Whatever be the facts regarding the Lusitania, the principal fact is that a great steamer, primarily and chiefly a conveyance for passengers, and carrying more than a thousand souls who had no part, or lot, in the conduct of war, was torpedoed and sunk without so much as a challenge or a warning, and that men, women and children were sent to their death in circumstances unparalleled in modern warfare...... Only her actual [436] resistance to capture, or refusal to stop, when ordered to do so, would have afforded the commander of the submarine any justification for so much as putting the lives of those on board the ship in jeopardy......

This was not a demand that submarine operations cease, and it was explained in the closing paragraph:

      The government of the United States cannot admit that the proclamation of a war zone, from which neutral ships have been warned to keep away, may be made to operate as in any degree an abbreviation of the rights either of American shipmasters or of American citizens bound on lawful errands as passengers on ships of belligerent nationality......

For the second time, therefore, the president drafted a note that left him free to be stiff, or yielding, as circumstances required. If he stood upon the opening contentions, he was demanding that submarine operations against commerce be abandoned; if upon the second, that passenger steamers and American vessels be given special treatment.

xii) The German deliberations upon the Second American note

Count Bernstorff had been so impressed by the irritation excited by the last note, that he advised his government to make no reply to this second one until they had consulted with Mr. Meyer Gerhardt, whom he sent back to Germany for that purpose. There was thus some delay; but a draft had been prepared when Herr Gerhardt reached Berlin. It would appear to have been compiled by the chancellor and by the foreign office staff, assisted possibly by Admiral von Müller. This draft contained a general undertaking that the president's most sweeping demand would be granted; but made this contingent upon a modification of British practice which was to be secured and guaranteed by the United States government:

      Submarine warfare will henceforward be conducted humanely. After a vessel has been examined and her papers inspected, enough time will be given for the crew to save themselves before the ship is sunk. Whenever possible the ship's boats will be towed towards the coast or to a neutral steamer. The imperial government has been obliged to alter this practice by the enemy's illegal methods of war; the misuse of neutral flags, instructions given that merchantmen attack U-boats, and rewards granted to those who do so......

The draft concluded that, if the American government would insist that these practices be abandoned, the imperial authorities would be willing to give such orders as would put all American citizens out of danger.

This, however, was a mere draft, and as Admiral Bachmann and his colleagues on the German high command knew little or nothing about submarine operations, they ordered the most experienced officers of the German submarine service, Captains Bauer, Bartenbach, and Hansen, to report upon it. The report given is interesting and significant, for reasons that that can only be appreciated by making a brief review of the operations that had been undertaken by the submarine commanders, during the weeks immediately preceding the drafting of their report.

U 28 had been on the west coast between 17th and 30th March, and had sunk eight ships according to prize regulations.

U 41 had been on the west coast between 26th and 29th May, and had sunk eight ships according to prize regulations, none without warning.

U 35 had been on the west coast between 2nd and 13th June and had sunk thirteen ships according to prize regulations and one without warning.

U 24 had been on the west coast from 27th June to 6th July and had sunk nine ships according to prize regulations and two without warning.

U 39 had been on the west coast from 29th June to the 3rd July and had sunk eleven ships according to prize regulations.

[437] Quite obviously, then, the submarine commanders were making distinctions between neutral and enemy ships and were roughly observing the undertakings that the chancellor desired to give; so that, if Captain Bauer, Captain Bartenbach and Captain Hansen had reported honestly upon the draft now presented to them they would have stated this, and would have added a warning about the mistakes that might occur. Instead of this, they gave a number of technical reasons (which no civilian could refute) explaining why these undertakings of the chancellor could never be observed.

      The central point of the note is the demand that merchantmen be examined by U-boats. As far as U-boats are concerned it is not possible for the following reasons: Any steamer with more than twelve knots can escape from a submarine by flight; most of the steamers plying between America and Europe can steam twelve knots at least. Vessels with a speed of between ten and twelve knots can be run down but only after a long chase.

In addition, the submarine commanders objected that they could not examine vessels, because some steamers were armed, and because others carried disguised armament. If such vessels as these were approached, on the surface, after being summoned to bring to, the approaching submarine would be overwhelmed by gunfire at point blank range. In brief, therefore, the submarine commanders reported, at great length, why they could never carry out the very operations that they were, in point of fact, executing. Why were they so dishonest? Possibly they did not wish to make any statement that would contradict the written statements of so influential an officer as Admiral Scheer, who had by then circulated a paper in which he argued, that submarine operations had ceased to be a reprisal, and ought to be pursued as a major operation until a decision was reached. It is possible, also, that these young submarine commanders were awaiting the moment when, with larger submarines and a better stock of torpedoes, they could abandon the restraints then imposed upon them. Their own official historian gives another explanation. There was, he admits, a tiefer Ursach [sic], and a psychologischer Untergrund for all this obstinacy: a hatred of America, which had infected all but the steadiest minds in Germany. It is a strange explanation that this hatred so influenced three young submarine officers, that they could not tell the truth about their own operations, yet it may be a correct one.

The naval staff supplemented this report with objections that were intrinsically reasonable. Submarine operations against commerce had been approved and ordered as a general measure of economic war, a counter-attack against the British economic campaign; submarine warfare could, therefore, only be bartered against those British measures which had made it necessary, whereas the chancellor proposed that the whole system should be abandoned, if Great Britain abandoned a sort of guerilla warfare against German submarines. The naval staff were particularly severe on the proposal, or suggestion, that special security should be given to vessels carrying American passengers. They were willing to accept the consequences of a strict military logic that merchant steamers carrying supplies to an enemy country must be assimilated to districts that supply an enemy army with grain, cattle and lodging; but as this was their justification, which they believed officers of all nations would understand, it was abhorrent to them to make a cowardly discrimination in favour of American citizens. How could a naval officer, bound by the rules of military honour, be expected to sink a ship after he had ascertained that no Americans were on board, and to spare the next, because some wealthy passenger proved American citizenship? A distinction so odious would be reckoned by the whole world to be an act of exceptional brutality. The odium would be greater than any incurred by sinking without warning.

The chancellor now admitted that his first draft could not be adhered to and assembled a council at his own house to consider the matter further. His position, and that of his civilian colleagues, was truly extraordinary: they had been [438] persuaded to abandon their first proposals by professional advisers to whom blind obstinacy was a rule of conduct; the higher policy of the German empire was being influenced by a document ostensibly technical, but, in point of fact, a mere record of the prejudices then current among naval officers of junior rank. It is small wonder that, under such guidance, the government staggered from blunder to blunder. The deceptions being practised on him did not, however, make the chancellor hesitate upon the main issue, which he thus stated to Admiral Bachmann:

      It must be taken for granted that some concession must be made to America, for Germany, if neutral, would not tolerate that a ship with 1,500 German passengers on board should be sunk without warning. Apart from which neutral demands, and the negotiations consequent upon them, were a commonplace of policy. Having asked their own allies, Austria and Hungary to make heavy sacrifices in order that neutral powers might remain neutral, how could the German government embarrass and endanger those same allies by obstinately refusing everything that the United States demanded?

The chancellor therefore asked to be told what concessions could safely be offered. Admiral Bachmann answered, and obstinately maintained, throughout the conference, that he would never advise any concession, and that any modification of existing practice was unthinkable.

xiii) The second German note, and its reception in the United States

This unflinching opposition forced the chancellor to a dangerous compromise. The note finally prepared was the composite work of men who were pursuing entirely different ends; the technical parts were written by Tirpitz and Bachmann, who were determined that the operations against commerce should not be mitigated; the remainder was prepared by the chancellor and Jagow, who wished to satisfy the United States authorities, and calm public feeling in America.3 Two successive drafts were shown to Mr. Gerard, who warned Herr Zimmermann that the first would be thought very unsatisfactory. A slight alteration was therefore made, and the final note presented, before Mr. Gerard had time to advise the German foreign office again. The note opened with a long preamble about British practices, and the German government's right to retaliate against them; it ended by proposing: (i) that American citizens should only be allowed to travel on vessels made recognisable by special marks, which were to be notified beforehand; (ii) that the American authorities should constitute these ships into a special trans-Atlantic service, and that four German ships should be purchased and allotted to it. (This proposal was originally Herr Ballin's); and (iii) that the ships in this special line should carry no munitions or contraband. These proposals were supported by the following contention:

      The imperial government believes that, in this manner, adequate facilities for travel across the Atlantic ocean can be afforded to American citizens. There would appear to be no compelling necessity for American citizens to travel to Europe in time of war on ships carrying an enemy flag. In particular the imperial government is unable to admit that American citizens can protect an enemy ship by their mere presence on board....... Consequently accidents suffered by neutrals on enemy ships cannot well be judged differently from accidents to which neutrals are at all times exposed, at the seat of war on land, when they take themselves to dangerous localities, in spite of previous warnings. [Emphasis added by Scriptorium.]

As the American authorities had twice intimated, that they would be satisfied with an assurance that American lives and property would be spared, and as they had also intimated, that the immunity of passenger steamers was the point for [439] which they were contending, the German government could claim, that they had conscientiously endeavoured to meet the American government's wishes. It was, perhaps, something of a novelty to propose, that the American authorities should establish a special line of passenger steamers, which alone might carry American tourists; but the novelty was no greater than many others already introduced: consular certifications of cargo; trade guilds which alone were entitled to receive contraband; bills of lading drafted by British lawyers and made compulsory to all Scandinavian steamship lines. The last contention, which the Americans found of such hard digestion, was, moreover, reasonable. The zone in which the German submarines were operating - the Channel, its western approaches, and the Irish sea - was certainly the open sea, a mare liberum or a locus communis usus; but it was also a zone with a strategic importance equal to that of Verdun, Longwy and Toul, and, in consequence, a war area in which belligerents were struggling for mastery. For this reason it was intrinsically reasonable to maintain, that those who travelled through the zone should submit to regulations.

The German nation can therefore claim, with justice, that the American people did not give the note a fair reception; for the Americans answered it by a shout of anger, which rose from every town and province in the country. In the state of New York, fourteen papers expressed the country's indignation; in Alabama three; in California five; in Oregon three, and in Wisconsin five. The country's resentment can, in fact, be best understood by reading the editorial articles of papers that circulated among the distant farming towns and villages, where the population is intensely patriotic and uninfluenced by the preferences of the eastern states.

      Nothing more arrogant, nothing constructed with more studied offence, has ever been sent in a note to an independent power (Louisville Evening Post). That the German government expects its note to be taken seriously is hard to believe. The United States asked Germany whether or not it intends to conform to the law of nations in recognition of neutral rights. Von Jagow replies that Americans may enjoy limited neutral rights if they submit to German regulations...... one is pleased to hope that it is addressed to the German street rather than to the state department (Lincoln State Journal Nebraska). It certainly is not for Germany to reconstruct the rules of warfare, and the established practices among civilised nations, and force her desires on all other countries neutral as well as belligerent. The United States cannot, and of course will not, submit to such a preposterous thing (Springfield Union). America is to be allowed to do business by permission of Germany. Americans are to be allowed to travel under conditions and restraints imposed by Germany...... It is not a reply to the American note: It is an astounding array of unheard of proposals which the United States must reject in their entirety (Worcester Gazette).

In fact, the German proposals, so exasperated the Americans, that the most equitable, fair minded men in the nation were as indignant as the pressmen. Mr. Coudert, a lawyer of great eminence and learning, Mr. Maurice Leon, a common lawyer with a large practice at the bar, and Mr. Kirchway, professor of law at Columbia university, each, in turn, expressed sentiments identical with those of the provincial editors. Even the temperate Colonel House wrote to the president urging him to be uncompromising. The excitement was one of those great storms of anger, which blow into the most secluded and protected places.

This fierce indignation was very embarrassing to the president: the national anger was his mandate, and his letter of instructions; but it was an instruction issued by a people that had not considered what the consequences would be, and, during the long controversy, the nation had become more timid of war than ever. The state of the American navy and army had been much agitated in the press, in fact, the armed forces of the republic had been made the subject of a general press enquiry, and it was not disguised that the country was in no position to seek redress [440] by force of arms. The president was, therefore, given the very difficult task of refusing the German proposals in language appropriately indignant, and yet of saving the nation from the consequences of its anger.4

xiv) The American government decide that submarine operations are to be tolerated

The decision taken by the president is of great importance in the history of the economic campaign. He wrote another note, in which he refused to entertain the proposals for special passenger steamers, with their own special distinguishing marks, and added a number of abstract propositions in a defiant, challenging style. These sections of the note were, however, of no particular importance, for the president informed the German government: That he was not unmindful of the extraordinary conditions prevailing; that attack and defence at sea were now conducted in a manner quite unforeseen when the existing rules of international law were established, and that, if operations against commerce could be conducted as they had been during the past two months, the government of the United States would tolerate them. In order that his meaning might be quite clear he allowed Bernstorff to send the following telegram:

      I hear confidentially, that, in opinion of the American government, it will be better for relations between governments and peoples not to answer the American note at all if our reply cannot be favourable. Our answer will be considered favourable if it (i) deals with the Lusitania as I indicated, (ii) gives assurances that our submarines will continue to act as lately, (iii) makes proposals with reference to negotiations about the freedom of the seas.

The outcome of the long controversy was, therefore, that the president did not stand upon those abstract contentions that had so exasperated the German authorities, and issued what may be called a writ of toleration for submarine operations against commerce, providing that they resembled those conducted during June and July, 1915. It is of some importance to discover what was now declared to be unobjectionable.

The records of the submarine cruises that were undertaken after the last imperial order had been issued show that the submarine commanders had conscientiously endeavoured to obey it. Thus, when U22 was in the Irish sea, her commander [441] recognised a large passenger steamer and left her alone; Commander Schneider of U24, made the same distinction a few weeks later. Also, the records show that neutral vessels were scrupulously examined whenever circumstances allowed, and that, in some cases, the vessel was freed after the contraband portions of the cargo had been thrown overboard.5 But, notwithstanding that they were taking these precautions, submarine commanders were still attacking without warning, whenever they could not distinguish the marks or the flag of a vessel, and each one of these attacks was a potential source of new controversy. If a vessel carrying passengers or American seamen were sunk, when an attack of this kind was delivered, then, it would certainly seem to the president and his advisers that the compromise agreed to by them had been flagrantly abused; the German submarine commanders, on the other hand, could claim, that, as their government had given no undertaking, so, they had broken none, by making an honest mistake, while performing a difficult duty. It would seem, moreover, as though the German naval authorities had foreseen this; for, during one of his interviews with Mr. Gerard, Admiral Behncke told him that the government would never withhold their support from a naval officer, who made a mistake whilst conscientiously carrying out his orders. The compromise was therefore highly unsatisfactory, and even dangerous, because nothing specific was agreed to. President Wilson offered it to the Germans, because he feared the consequences of protracting the open controversy with their government. When he offered it he did not, as far as is known, seek the advice of any American naval officer or submarine commander. Being guided purely by the rules of political expediency, he thus failed to discover, that the breach, or the observance, of what he offered was contingent upon all the hazards of the sea, and that he had only given the Germans an ill-worded licence to continue a hazardous experiment.

xv) German deliberations for liquidating the controversy: the sinking of the Arabic

The more far-sighted members of the German government and the German diplomatic service all realised what a great concession had been made by the president when he wrote:

      The events of the past two months have clearly indicated that it is possible and practicable to conduct such submarine operations as have characterised the activities of the Imperial German navy within the so-called war zone in substantial accord with the accepted practices of regulated warfare.

During the brief interval between the Lusitania controversy and the crisis that arose so soon after, Helfferich, Bernstorff and the chancellor were, therefore, considering plans for liquidating the quarrel altogether, and for securing an undertaking from the president that he would force the British authorities to consider proposals for easing their restraints upon commerce. The first condition to any negotiations of this kind was, of course, that the naval authorities should so manage the U-boat operations, that there should be no breach of the compromise. On this point Helfferich argued, that as the results achieved proved that no immediate decision was to be expected at sea, so, very severe restrictions to the U-boat commanders (to be maintained only while negotiations with America were in progress) would be of no prejudice to the general plan of campaign. This proposition was agreed to, in a general way, by the emperor, the chancellor, Jagow and Admiral von Müller, and it is curious to see how easily the addition [sic] restraints could have been imposed: while Helfferich's state paper was being considered, Commander Valentiner sank twenty-five vessels (71,390 tons) without ever breaching the procedure that President [442] Wilson considered to be legitimate. A very slight addition to the existing orders would thus, almost certainly, have ensured that respite from further controversy, which would have enabled the German diplomats to open their negotiation with the president.6

When Helfferich's paper was circulated to Tirpitz and Bachmann, however, they refused to give any assurance that the president's conditions would be observed. Tirpitz's arguments were so childish that they are not worth repeating; Admiral Bachmann was more intelligible. In his opinion, U-boat operations would almost certainly force a decision; they were therefore far more valuable as an instrument of war than a few additional imports of foodstuffs, which was all that would be secured if the negotiations were successful. In other words, Admiral Bachmann considered his system of economic coercion to be more powerful, and more certain to succeed, than the British. As he held these opinions, his objection to any kind of bargain was, in a sense, reasonable. On seeing that the diplomats and the admirals were again at a deadlock, Admiral von Müller asked that the emperor might be given a tabulated statement showing how many ships had been sunk in circumstances that the president would not object to, and what proportion they made of the whole. If this return had been made, and its implications carefully considered, the history of submarine warfare might have been different.

Unfortunately for themselves, the German authorities were not allowed the necessary time; for, while the most eminent men in the empire were considering Helfferich's paper, and while Admiral von Müller was striving to cement a better union between the seamen and the diplomats, a young submarine commander brought all into confusion. Commander Schneider was now off the coast of Ireland. On his outward cruise, he had been fired upon by a large steamer, which he thought was collaborating with a yacht. His ship was never in danger, but the incident made him nervous. On 19th August, when off Kinsale, he stopped the English steamer Durnsley, and exploded bombs in her hold, after allowing the crew to get away. The Durnsley sank slowly, and, as she sank, a large steamer approached. Commander Schneider deemed this other vessel to be a large freight and passenger steamer, but this did not deter him: As I had been shot at by a large steamer on the 14th (he wrote) I decided to attack this one from under water. He therefore sent a torpedo into the after part of the vessel and she sank: she was the liner Arabic, outward bound, with some twenty American citizens on board. The American authorities received a number of sworn statements from the survivors on the 23rd; the deponents agreed, without exception, that the attack was made without warning of any kind, or, as Mr. Zellah Covington put it: In cold blood. It was therefore deemed that the sinking had been done in defiance and contempt of the compromise that President Wilson had offered, and that nothing had been gained by the solemn warnings given during the controversy upon the Lusitania.

The American government were now in the greatest difficulty imaginable: having spoken so firmly, they were debarred from compromising on the compromise they had offered; but, as during the previous excitement, the thought uppermost in [443] their minds was that the nation was not ready for war. On the day after the disaster became known Mr. Lansing stated that the matter was particularly difficult in that: The masters of the American government were not ready for war. The position was, however, judged so grave, that the military authorities desired an immediate conference with the allies about the supply and manufacture of arms.7

The president and his advisers decided at once, that no more notes of protest should be delivered, as a new protest would only be answered by an evasive reply, which the nation would consider to be a new humiliation. An immediate warning was therefore given to Bernstorff, who secured a promise that the prevailing excitement should be cooled off [abgewiegelt]; and that the American government would wait until the German authorities had completed their enquiries. This was a great point secured; for Commander Schneider's sworn statement was not in the chancellor's hand until 2nd September.8 During these preliminary conversations Bernstorff became convinced, that the American president would be content, if he was given satisfaction on the matter of passenger ships, and some kind of gratification on the point of honour; he was also convinced, that, if these concessions were not made unequivocally and without reserve, the American government would give him his passports. He therefore warned his government how important it was to assure the president that passenger ships were not being deliberately attacked, for this would show him that his recent protests were not being treated with the contempt that he imagined. It is truly extraordinary to see what convulsions followed upon these simple proposals.

xvi) The German high command are still divided

The chancellor convened a conference at Pless on 26th August, and the matters debated differ little, if at all, from those debated at so many previous conferences. The chancellor represented that it was useless to disguise, or to belittle, the anger that these incidents were provoking; that unless some assurances were given at once, and security offered for the future, it was certain that there would be war with the United States; and that no statesman could be responsible for policy, if the neutrality and friendship of the greatest neutral power in the world could be lost by some accident at sea, of which no warning could be given. Notwithstanding his strong preamble, the chancellor's demands were very moderate, for he asked only: that the instructions to the submarine commanders should be communicated to the Washington government, as proof that passenger steamers were not being attacked deliberately; that damages for the Lusitania should be offered, and fixed by an arbitration court; and that the American government should then be invited to negotiate with Great Britain, that the declaration of London be recognised as binding upon all belligerents. Falkenhayn endorsed all this; for it was as intolerable to him as it was to the chancellor that America should be turned from a neutral to a belligerent, almost in a night, and for reasons over which he had no control whatever. Everybody present was, in fact, at issue with the two opinionated old seamen who combatted every proposal and every suggestion. Only one of their objections is now of any historic interest, this was Bachmann's, who stated: If Great Britain recognised and observed the declaration of London, this would now be valueless to Germany - a remark which shews how much the German admirals were then expecting from submarine operations against commerce.

[444] The admirals were overridden, and the emperor empowered the chancellor to communicate the orders under which the submarine commanders were acting, and to open negotiations with America for a general settlement. The necessary instructions were given to Bernstorff, so that, early in September, the president had an assurance that his compromise was accepted, but no satisfactory explanation why it was being repeatedly disregarded. Mr. Gerard's reports probably inclined him to be patient; for he was kept very well informed about the chancellor's struggle for mastery, and of the convulsions that followed upon the conference at Pless.

When the emperor disregarded all the objections raised by the admirals, and empowered the chancellor to draft the necessary instructions to Bernstorff, both admirals at once asked to be relieved. In addition, von Pohl, the commander-in-chief, informed Admiral von Müller, that he could not issue any supplementary order to the submarine commanders binding them absolutely to spare passenger ships. He also asked to be relieved. Müller now struck quick and hard: he told Pohl that he had only communicated a part of his message, as the emperor was in no mood to brook this opposition; and he arranged that Bachmann should be relieved by Admiral von Holtzendorff. The new chief of the staff was a seaman of great experience, and a personal friend of the chancellor; for some years he had been an attending member of the Prussian upper house. By the end of the month Bernstorff felt so reassured that he reported the immediate danger past.

xvii) The attack on Hesperian and the final compromise

The new chief of the staff thought that submarine war had been greatly overvalued, and was determined that it should be properly regulated; but before he had time to prepare and issue the necessary orders, another young hot-head put all in jeopardy. Commander Schwieger was now off the coast of Ireland, and he, like Schneider, believed that in doubtful cases it was better to torpedo at sight. On 4th September, he torpedoed the liner Hesperian without actually sinking her. Americans were on board, but none lost their lives. When asked for explanations, the German authorities assured the American government that no German submarine had been operating near the spot, and that the accident could not properly be attributed to them. President Wilson was, apparently, so anxious that nothing should give a setback to the settlement he hoped to reach with Bernstorff, that he received this explanation without protest.

Nevertheless, although the incident was thus passed over, it was probably of great prejudice to the Germans. Later on, when a settlement had been reached, a board of American officers reported that the Hesperian had almost certainly been torpedoed. Whether President Wilson attributed this torpedoing to duplicity, or to bad management, he must have formed an ill opinion of the government with which he was in treaty. It is significant, at all events, that Sir Cecil Spring-Rice reported, that the situation was noticeably more strained and dangerous in mid-September, when this new accident was in agitation. Bernstorff reported, simultaneously, that the American government were very suspicious, and that they would no longer be satisfied with a copy of the orders issued to submarine commanders, and explanations of each particular accident.

The American government now had before them (September 15th): (i) an official assurance that if passenger steamers were sunk, the sinking would be accidental and contrary to instructions; and (ii) Commander Schneider's sworn statement that he sank the Arabic because he expected to be rammed. Also, they had received an offer to submit all these matters to arbitration, so long as the bare legality of submarine warfare were excepted from it. They refused this, saying that they saw no use in securing an arbitrational award on Commander Schneider's conduct. The American authorities were thus compelled to decide what additional satisfaction they [445] would demand and insist on. They demanded only that the attack on the Arabic should be disavowed, and received an assurance that it was, in effect, disavowed on 5th October. The American authorities were inclined to be content with this meagre satisfaction, in that they now became aware that submarine operations were being better conducted. Though not in time to prevent the foolish attack on the Hesperian, Admiral von Holtzendorff issued very precise orders, that no passenger steamer was to be attacked; that no attack was to be delivered in doubtful cases; and that neutrals were to be examined without exception. Then, deeming that even these orders did not: Give policy the unqualified security necessary for negotiating with America, Admiral von Holtzendorff recalled all submarines from the west coast, and sanctioned operations in the North sea, and the Mediterranean only. Rather than obey this order, the commander-in-chief recalled all U-boats in home waters.

xviii) The British and German systems compared

If the bare, literal meaning of what was recorded in the state papers were our only guide to what the Germans had lost or gained, then, it would be said that they had secured far more toleration for their system, than we had for ours, and that it was, in consequence, safer from interference. Ostensibly, they had received an assurance that their operations against commerce would be tolerated, so long as certain precautions were taken. Great Britain and the allies had not secured any written toleration for their system, and, in appearance, the controversy between them and the United States government was still open, and unsettled, while the controversy between Washington and Berlin was ended. It would, however, be very improper to estimate the stability given to the campaign merely by the written compromise of 5th October. If the notes exchanged on that day had relieved the American government of all their anxieties, and had left them satisfied that the controversy was ended, the Germans could then be said to have made their system of economic coercion secure against all interference. Can it, however, be imagined, for an instant, that the president and his advisers thus appreciated the position? Hardly. It is true no one of them ever specifically stated what interpretation the president gave to the compromise (which was capable of many), so that his opinions and intentions cannot be proved outright. But if only those documents which the president is known to have seen are inspected, and if he is only supposed to have inferred from them what an ordinary reasonable man would infer, it can certainly be supposed, that he thought the agreement was little but a temporary expedient for postponing controversy with a government so divided and distracted that its undertakings were almost valueless. Probably he agreed to the compromise only because he thought, that, by agreeing, he removed an obstacle to his plan for mediating. Nothing suggests that the agreement abated his dislike of submarine operations, or his mistrust of the authorities conducting them.

Again, if not one, but all, the relevant documents are examined: the letters that have been quoted by Colonel House; the testimony that Colonel House gives about the president's opinions; the reports from our ambassador about the official preparations for war; and the great activity of the police in the capital, then, the inference is overwhelming that the Germans had secured no recognition for their system, but only a temporary licence to continue it for a little longer; for it is significant that Mr. Secretary Lansing seemed to think that the controversy had made friendship with Germany a thing of the past; and that, less than a fortnight after ambassador Bernstorff had complied with the American demand for satisfaction, President Wilson allowed a letter to be sent to the British foreign secretary, in which he foresaw a breakdown in his plans for mediating and an American intervention on the allied side. Even though this document is of less significance than biographers and journalists have deemed it to be, it is at least certain that no analogous document was ever presented at Berlin.

[446] Further, the bad management of the Germans raised influences against them which they were powerless to modify. It has already been shown there are reasons for supposing that the American cabinet, when assembled in conference, did once contrast and compare the British and German systems, and pronounced the British system to be the less objectionable. Evidence as to this, though significant, is inevitably vague and scrappy: the American press was, however, bound to no reticence in the matter, and they compared the two systems and pronounced upon them without reserve.

      You will note, wrote Sir Colville Barclay, a very general tendency among all the more serious organs, which do not represent notoriously pro-German centres like Milwaukee, St. Louis and Cincinnati to emphasise the fundamental differences between the issues engaging the attention of the British and American governments and those which the United States is discussing with Germany.

Sir Colville enclosed a budget of leading articles which were all variants of the following leader in the New York Tribune.

      It is equally necessary to perceive that there is no parallel between our differences with Germany and any disagreement we have with Great Britain. We have informed Germany that further wanton murder of American citizens will be viewed as an act deliberately unfriendly. A systematic effort will be made to procure equally vigorous language in dealing with Great Britain. This effort should fail and must fail, because no question of life divides Great Britain from us, and Sir Edward Grey has neither asserted the right of murder nor has he been asked by us to give assurance against murder. Our cases with Great Britain are purely civil......

It would be easy to collect a hundred statements, almost identical, from papers published in every province. As President Wilson was always so careful to be guided by popular sentiment, this unanimous judgement must be reckoned as an influence very adverse to the Germans.9

Finally, the German system was far less secure than our own, in that it could never be operated as a system, independently of the prejudices and passions of those who controlled it. The British authorities could, at any moment, make enormous concessions to neutrals in the matter of food, textiles and propellants, without prejudice to their general system of discriminating between enemy and neutral goods, and without damage to the machinery of discrimination. The German system was radically changed, if the control of it was transferred from two obstinate old men to men endowed with greater widsom [sic] and knowledge. As designed by Tirpitz and Bachmann, submarine operations against commerce were what philosophers of military history would call a major strategic operation, which might force a decision: when controlled by Holtzendorff and Müller they became little but an auxiliary campaign.

1During May Sir Cecil Spring-Rice sent a number of telegraphic reports upon the national temper, and elaborated them in three long despatches (Nos. 224, 257, 258): these documents are my authority for all statements about public opinion during the crisis. ...back...

2The first authorities for what occurred at this meeting are Sir Cecil Spring-Rice's telegrams. It is to be remarked that Sir Cecil generally contrived to collect very accurate information about the deliberations of the American cabinet; and that his forecasts of the outcome were, as a rule, accurate. The second authority is Colonel House's diary, Vol. II, p. 5. The Attorney-General gave him a long account of the meeting. Mr. Stannard Baker, Vol. V, Chap. VII, is more explicit about Mr. Bryan's suggestions after the cabinet meeting than about the meeting itself. These suggestions varied only slightly from what the secretary of state urged at the cabinet meeting. ...back...

3The history of the note appears to have been roughly this. After the conference at the chancellor's house Tirpitz and Bachmann compiled a draft of their portion, which Jagow approved in principle. This draft was largely incorporated; but the foreign office struck out some of its severer provisions, that the dates of sailing and numbers of American passengers be notified beforehand. Zimmermann then added a proposal for establishing a small trans-Atlantic service to be used exclusively by American citizens. ...back...

4Sir Cecil Spring-Rice's appreciation is worth quoting (Despatch 368. 8th July, 1915).
      While the press has, as might be expected, found very little difficulty in pointing out the objections to the German attitude, they have not found it so easy to deal with the question of what is to be done next. It is not remarkable that the more the American public read of the effects and requirements of modern war, and the more the preparedness of the American army and navy are discussed, the less inclination is felt to take any steps which might lead to the United States resorting to force of arms. The advocates of a war-like policy are thus fewer in number than when the discussion with the German government began. Severance of diplomatic relations is not regarded as a very satisfactory method of ending the dispute, while its continuation along the present lines cannot, it is generally realised, be indefinitely prolonged. The perplexity felt by public opinion as to the future course of action may probably be reflected in the mind of the president, whose announced policy in questions of first rate importance is to follow the dictates of that opinion. As he says in a work recently published: It is the strength of a democratic polity, that there are so many minds to be consulted and brought to agreement, and that nothing can be wisely done for which the thought, and good deal more than the thought, of the country, its sentiment and its purpose, have not been prepared. If this dictum is applied to the present situation it may be said that the thought, sentiment and purpose of the country have been prepared to the point of insisting, by any means short of war, that assurance shall be given which will remove any possibility of a second Lusitania case. The thought of the country, as indicated by the continual discussions as to the efficiency of the army and navy, appears to realise the possibility of war; the purpose and sentiment of the country are still undoubtedly opposed to war no less strongly than ever. This tendency of public opinion is no doubt strengthened by the fact that since the destruction of the Lusitania no similar incident of so striking a nature has recurred and the deduction is drawn that Germany is disinclined to arouse popular sentiment here still further.
      This was exactly the president's difficulty: see his letter to Mr. Lansing, 13th July, and Mr. Lansing's reply. Carleton Savage. Policy toward maritime commerce in war. Vol. II, pp. 355 et seq. ...back...

5The original records from which these deductions have been drawn have been published practically verbatim in Krieg zur See Handelskrieg mit U-booten, Band II, Chapters VIII and XVI. The following cruises are particularly illustrative of the procedure, and the treatment of neutral traffic. U22, pp. 110, 111. U24, pp. 111, 112. U25, p. 126. ...back...

6The trouble was that under existing orders submarine commanders were free to act as they thought best in doubtful cases: some thought it wisest not to attack unless they were certain of a ship's identity: others thought it best to do so. See von Förstner's cruise in U28, 24th July, 1915-11th August, 1915. Während des folgenden Nachtmarsches quer zum Westausgang dss Englischen Kanals auf Ouessant zu wird der Kurs mehrerer grosser Dampfer gekreuzt. Bei der hellen Mondnacht meinte der Kommandant wären Angriffe erfolgoersprechend [sic] gewesen. Da die Nationalität indes zweifelhaft war wurde im Sinne der erhaltenen Befehle von Angriffen abgesehen. Krieg zur See Handelskrieg mit U-booten, Band II, p. 248. In contrast to this see Captain Schwieger's procedure 9th July, 1917: Angriff auf Dampfer von getauchten U-boote da U20 zur ruhigen instand setzung einer Olmachine sich gerade unter Wasser befand.... Am gleichen Tage vor dem St. Georgs Kanal Torpedofehlschuss auf Dampfer ohne Flagge. [Transcription errors sic] Ibid, pp. 115, 116. ...back...

7Mr. Lansing did what he could to reconcile the president to a war with Germany, see his letter 24th August, Carleton Savage, op. cit. Vol. II. p. 376. ...back...

8It was in flagrant contradiction with the entry in his log, and was a most curious document. He stated that, having deliberately manoeuvred on to the grain of the Arabic to observe her course, he judged that she intended to ram his ship. Krieg zur See Handelskrieg mit U-booten. Band II, p. 269. ...back...

9Authors note. - Some weeks after this chapter was set up in page proof, an American friend gave me copies of some private letters from President Wilson to Mr. Bryan. One of them ran thus: It is interesting and significant how often the German Foreign Office goes over the same ground in different words and always misses the essential point involved, that England's violation of neutral rights is different from Germany's violation of the rights of humanity. Had I seen these letters earlier I could have stated some things in this chapter as matters of fact whereas, with the evidence available when I wrote it, I could only record them as probable conjectures. ...back...

A History of the Blockade of Germany
and of the countries associated with her in the Great War:
Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey.

by A. C. Bell (Historical Section, Committee of Imperial Defence).