Just Cause

The attitude of Germany was steadily becoming too unbearable for any self-respecting nation to endure. War may be the great evil which it is often called, and doubtless no words can describe its horrors, but there is one evil even worse for a nation to lose its ideals.

The time for action by the United States had come.
In President Wilson's war message after referring to the dastardly deeds of Germany he wrote, "I was for a little while unable to believe that such things would be done by any government that had hitherto subscribed to humane practices of civilized nations," and he refers also to the wanton and wholesale destruction of the lives of noncombatants men, women and children engaged in pursuits "which have always, even in the darkest periods of modern history, been deemed innocent and legitimate."

In spite of the Teutonic claim of a higher "kultur" than other nations and the loudly expressed desires for the "freedom of the seas," Germany's brutal disregard of the rights of neutrals had extended far beyond the confines of Belgium, which she ruthlessly invaded and ravaged.

On the sea her former promises were like her treaty with Belgium "scraps of paper."

And President Wilson now had behind him not merely the sentiment of his people, but also specific examples to uphold him. For instance, Admiral Sampson in the war with Spain, had appeared May 12, 1898, with his fleet before Santiago, Cuba.

There he conducted a reconnaissance in force in his efforts to locate the Spanish fleet, of which Admiral Cervera was in command. Sampson, however, did not bombard the city, because, in accordance with the accepted laws of nations, he would have been required to give due notice of his intention in order that the sick, women, children and non-combatants might be removed. And yet everyone knew that a hard, quick bombardment of Santiago would have given him the city. He attacked the forts only, and before a gun was fired gave his ships' captains word that they were to avoid hitting the Spanish Military Hospital.


Even in the general orders of the German Admiralty staff (Berlin, June 22, 1914) was the following direction, after stating that the passengers of every armed captured merchant vessel were to be left to go free "unless it appears they have participated in the resistance": "Before proceeding to the destruction of the (neutral) vessel (which has been seized for proper reason), the safety of all persons on board, and, so far as possible their effects, is to be provided for."

President Wilson, at first unable to believe that Germany was deliberately violating her word and even after it was impossible to avoid the conclusion that the campaign of the Teutons was being conducted, to use their own expression, "ruthlessly," still was doing his utmost to keep the United States out of the World War. For this he was bitterly assailed and criticised.

However, he patiently held to his policy announced a year before, that he would "wait until facts become unmistakable and even susceptible of only one interpretation."

As early as December 24, 1914, Admiral Von Tirpitz in numerous inspired newspaper articles and interviews, began to explain the possibility of a very decided change in the German U-boat campaign. This too was before Germany was really suffering in any marked degree from the tightening work of the British navy. In spite of his arrogant words, however, the German admiral directly asks, "What will America say?"

On February 4, 1915, the Germans in a way that was outside all international law, publicly declared that 'within certain expressed limits of the sea or war zone, their U-boats would sink vessels without warning found there without permission, or if they were engaged in dealings with the enemy.'

Six days later President Wilson warned Germany that she will be held to "strict accountability" if the rights of American vessels within the proscribed limits are violated.
It was April 22, 1915, when, through the acknowledged direction of the German Embassy, advertisements appeared in New York papers warning all against sailing on vessels planning to pass through the war zone. And this was done in the face of the President's words and the correspondence that had been carried on between the two countries.

The Lusitania was sunk May 7, 1915.

A thousand lives were lost, many of them Americans. A roar of anger rose from America and the civilized world at the brutality of this act, as well as at the dastardly disregard of the rights of neutral nations.

"They were warned," said the Germans glibly, as if their "warning" was sufficient. For a nation that had made huge profits in selling munitions at other times to warring peoples their "warning" would have been ridiculous had it not been tragic. The commander of the U-boat received a German medal for his "gallantry" in sinking the Lusitania and sending hundreds of innocent victims to their watery graves. As if to add insult to injury Germany proclaimed a holiday for her schools on the occasion.

President Wilson still held to his patient course. He would give Germany every opportunity to explain the act before he himself acted. May 13, 1915, his first so-called "Lusitania letter" was written. Germany replied May 28th, declaring that she was justified in sinking the great vessel.

On June 9th, the President sent his "second Lusitania letter," and correspondence followed which plainly indicated that Germany was trying to evade the real issue.

July 31, 1915, saw the "third Lusitania letter," for even then the President was doing his utmost to avoid war, if avoidance was possible. On August 19, 1915, the Arabic was torpedoed by a U-boat and still other Americans lost their lives. The German ambassador to the United States, Count von Bernstorff, however, apparently thought to stave off action by pledging (orally) for his country that her submarines would not sink "liners" without warning.

The ambassador's words were not unlike those previously received, for instead of the matter being settled, still more unsatisfactory correspondence followed and other boats also were sent to the bottom of the sea.

The following February, Germany made certain proposals that had an appearance of a grudging or compulsory willingness on her part to provide for the Lusitania victims, but within a few days (March 24, 1916), another passenger steamer, the Sussex, was torpedoed, and among the lost were Americans.
The feeling in Washington was becoming tense and was still more intensified in April, when Germany sneeringly explained that she was not positive whether or not she sank the Sussex. She did admit, however, that one of her submarines had been in action near the place where the Sussex was sent to the bottom.

Eight days later President Wilson threatened Germany that he would break off diplomatic relations if similar acts recurred. Perhaps because she was biding her time Germany on May 4th gave a "promise" that no more ships should be sunk without warning.

In October of that same year (1916) a German submarine appeared off the New England coast. Her officers put into Newport and it is said were even graciously received and most courteously treated. Then, in return for the hospitality thus received, the submarine sank the Stephano, which had a large body of Americans on board returning from a vacation spent in Newfoundland. Without doubt many would have been lost if American men-of-war had not been at hand to rescue the victims from the water. Still, apparently there was not even a thought in the minds of Germany's rulers, that they had violated any rules of decency, to say nothing of rules of right.

The patience of the United States was near the breaking point when still the dastardly deeds did not cease, and few were surprised when at last, January 31, 1917, Germany discovered that deceit no longer was possible and that the patience and hope of America could no longer be abused. On that date the German leaders came out openly and informed the President that they planned to "begin an unrestricted submarine war."

Three days afterward President Wilson gave the German ambassador to the United States his passports and recalled the American ambassador (Gerard) from Berlin.

Such evasion and hypocrisy, such wanton brutality and cruelty as had been displayed by Germany were without parallel in history or at least since the history of civilization began. Naturally a declaration of war by the United States was the only possible outcome.

The unlawful sinking of American vessels or of other vessels having Americans on board makes up a list that is striking when it is looked at as a whole and it is recalled that they had been sunk after Germany had "ruthlessly" repudiated the pledges she had given.

Housatonic, February 3, 1917.
Lyman M. Law, February 13, 1917.
Algonquin, March 2, 1917.
Vigilancia, March 16, 1917.
City of Memphis, March 17, 1917.
Illinois, March 17, 1917.
Healdton, March 21, 1917 (sunk outside the
"prohibited zone" arbitrarily proclaimed
by Germany).
Aztec, April 1, 1917.

Perhaps in this list should also be included the sinking of the William P. Frye, January 28, 1915, by the German raider, Prinz Eitel Friedrich. The very acme of impudence seems to have been reached when this raider, after having unlawfully sunk American vessels, sought refuge in the American port of Newport News, Virginia. No clearer testimony has ever been given of the state of mind among the Germans, unless it is the actions of the German crew of this vessel after they had been interned.

Preceding the declaration of war by the United States, two hundred and twenty-six of her citizens had lost their lives by the unlawful acts of German submarines.

Among those who perished in this manner were many women and children. In nearly every instance there was not even the form of an excuse that Germany was acting in accord with the laws of nations. Outside the American vessels the official estimate made at that time by the Government of the United States was that six hundred and sixty-eight vessels of neutral nations had been sunk by the piratical German submarines.

It appeared almost as if the rulers of Germany either were insane or were so bent on their wild dreams of subduing the world to their will that they deliberately said to themselves, "evil, be thou our good." They had thrown down the gauntlet to the civilized parts of the entire world. Even after Brazil, China, Bolivia, Guatemala and other nations broke off diplomatic relations with Germany and almost all the civilized nations of the earth had protested against the brutal policy boldly followed by her, she whiningly complained that the world was jealous of her greatness and had combined to overthrow the "kultur" she was so eager to share with all mankind.

In addition to the frightfulness of Germany on the seas (a term she herself had invented and blatantly advocated), the activity of German spies and the dangerous "propaganda" she was putting forth in the United States were even more insulting and quite as threatening to American lives and property as was her dastardly work with her submarines. Many of the intrigues were not made known by the Government of the United States.
When the message of President Wilson was presented, the committee on Foreign Affairs in the House of Representatives went on formal record, after presenting its resolution declaring a state of war to exist between the United States and Germany, that within our country at least twenty-one crimes or "unfriendly" acts had been committed either by the direction of or connivance with the Imperial German Government. And nearly every one of these unfriendly acts in itself was a sufficient basis for war.

Included in this list were the following clearly known facts:
An office had been maintained in the United States to issue fraudulent passports for German reservists. This work was under the direction of Captain von Papen, who was a member of the German Embassy.

German spies were sent to England who were supplied with passports from the United States.

In defiance of our laws steamers had been sent from our ports with supplies for German sea raiders.

Hindus within the United States had been supplied with money by Germany to stir up revolutions and revolts in India.

A German agent had been sent from the United States to blow up with dynamite the international bridge at Vanceboro, Maine.

Germany had provided funds for her agents in the United States to blow up factories in Canada.

Five distinct conspiracies had been unearthed, in which Germany was the guiding spirit, to make and place bombs on ships leaving ports of the United States. Several of those conspiracies were successful and the murderous bombs were placed even on board vessels of the United States.

Germany was working to arouse and increase a feeling of bitterness in Mexico against the United States. In this way it was hoped by Germany that we would be drawn into war with Mexico, and thereby be prevented from entering into either the Great War or European affairs.

Providing huge sums of money to be used in bribing newspapers in the United States to publish articles which should prevent America from entering the war and arouse a feeling of bitterness against England and France. Later it was admitted by German agents that a plan had been formed by which forty leading American newspapers were to be purchased and used for this purpose. The plan was not wholly successful, but many papers or certain editors were proved to have been bought with this end in view and some fully earned their money.

Insult was added to injury. Such colossal brutality was even commended and upheld by the friends of Germany and defended on the ground that the "fatherland" had been attacked treacherously and therefore was entitled, whether or not she was acting in accord with established and accepted laws, to which she had given her approval, to defend herself in every possible way.

Perhaps the climax of this outrageous disregard of decency came when Secretary Lansing exposed March 1, 1917, the infamous "Zimmerman note." It was written before war had been declared, and, officially at least, Germany and the United States were friends at the time. Indeed it was only three days after the appearance of President Wilson before the Senate with his plan for a league of nations to secure and assure justice and peace for all nations.

This infamous note was even brought to the United States and was to be carried across the border into Mexico, a country with which we were not at war and with which the President was doing his utmost to maintain peace.

It is impossible to give the entire message but the following extracts will reveal its character:
"Berlin, January 19, 1917.
"On February 1 we intend to begin submarine war unrestricted. In spite of this it is our intention to keep neutral the United States of America.
"If this attempt is not successful we propose an alliance on the following basis with Mexico, That we shall make war together and together make peace. We shall give general financial support and it is understood that Mexico is to reconquer the lost territory in New Mexico, Texas and Arizona. The details are left to you for settlement."

The German Secretary then goes on to instruct the German Minister in Mexico to open secret negotiations with Carranza just as soon as it is plain that the proposed U-boat campaign brings the United States into the war and also to get Carranza to draw Japan into the proposed war against us.

Just how the Government obtained this note will not be known until an explanation is given later, but its authorized publication by Secretary Lansing instantly aroused an intense feeling of anger throughout the country. For a "friendly" nation to be plotting against a "friend," to attempt to use that nation even then as a base of operations against its peace and security, to say nothing of the plan to induce still another friendly power to attack us, outraged our every sense of decency and justice. A cry of anger and dismay was heard on every side except perhaps from certain pro-Germans who weakly protested that "the letter was a palpable forgery, too apparent to be read under any other supposition than that the German Secretary never wrote such a piece of work."

The dismay of these friends of Germany can only be imagined when Secretary Zimmerman boldly acknowledged that he had written the letter. He even defended himself in doing so. As if that were not sufficient, he proceeded to complain because the United States had intercepted the letter, for the Mexican President had quickly declared his ignorance of any such message. It is difficult to say whether the calm assurance of Zimmerman that he was the writer or his childish whining that the United States had no right to intercept even such treacherous messages if they chanced to be written by Germany, produced the greater consternation.

The inability of Germany to comprehend why any nation should object to anything Germany wanted to do or say was itself beyond the ability of a civilized people to understand. It was perhaps the most sublime impudence the world ever has witnessed.

Why America Went to War with Germany

Let me count the ways

A state of war had been declared April 5, 1917, to exist between the United States and the Imperial German Government. There is no clearer or more forceful statement of the reason why we went to war than the address delivered by President Wilson at Washington on Flag Day, June 14, 1917:

My Fellow-Citizens: We meet to celebrate Flag Day because this flag which we honor and under which we serve is the emblem of our unity, our power, our thought and purpose as a nation. It has no other character than that which we give it from generation to generation. The choices are ours. It floats in majestic silence above the hosts that execute those choices, whether in peace or in war. And yet, though silent, it speaks to us speaks to us of the past, of the men and women who went before us and of the records they wrote upon it. We celebrate the day of its birth; and from its birth until now it has witnessed a great history, has floated on high the symbol of great events, of a great plan of life worked out by a great people. We are about to carry it into battle, to lift it where it will draw the fire of our enemies.

We are about to bid thousands, hundreds of thousands, it may be millions, of our men, the young, the strong, the capable men of the nation, to go forth and die beneath it on fields of blood far away for what?

For some unaccustomed thing? For something for which it has never sought the fire before? American armies were never before sent across the seas. Why are they sent now? For some new purpose, for which this great flag has never been carried before, or for some old, familiar, heroic purpose for which it has seen men, its own men, die on every battlefield upon which Americans have borne arms since the Revolution?

These are questions which must be answered. We are Americans. We in our turn serve America, and can serve her with no private purpose. We must use her flag as she has always used it. We are accountable at the bar of history and must plead in utter frankness what purpose it is we seek to serve.  End of Presidential statement

It is plain enough how we were forced into the war. The extraordinary insults and aggressions of the Imperial German Government left us no self-respecting choice but to take up arms in defense of our rights as a free people and of our honor as a sovereign Government. The military masters of Germany denied us the right to be neutral. They filled our unsuspecting communities with vicious spies and conspirators and sought to corrupt the opinion of our people in their own behalf.

When they found that they could not do that, their agents diligently spread sedition among us and sought to draw our own citizens from their allegiance and some of those agents were men connected with the official embassy of the German Government itself here in our own capital. They sought by violence to destroy our industries and arrest our commerce.

They tried to incite Mexico to take up arms against us and to draw Japan into a hostile alliance with her and that, not by indirection, but by direct suggestion from the Foreign Office in Berlin. They impudently denied us the use of the high seas and repeatedly executed their threat that they would send to their death any of our people who ventured to approach the coasts of Europe. And many of our own people were corrupted.

Men began to look upon their own neighbors with suspicion and to wonder in their hot resentment and surprise whether there was any community in which hostile intrigue did not lurk. What great nation in such circumstances would not have taken up arms? Much as we had desired peace, it was denied us, and not of our own choice. This flag under which we serve would have been dishonored had we withheld our hand.

But that is only part of the story. We know now as clearly as we knew before we were ourselves engaged that we are not the enemies of the German people and that they are not our enemies. They did not originate or desire this hideous war or wish that we should be drawn into it; and we are vaguely conscious that we are fighting their cause, as they will some day see it, as well as our own. They are themselves in the grip of the same sinister power that has now at last stretched its ugly talons out and drawn blood from us. The whole world is at war because the whole world is in the grip of that power and is trying out the great battle which shall determine whether it is to be brought under its mastery or fling itself free.


The war was begun by the military masters of Germany, who proved to be also the masters of Austria-Hungary. These men have never regarded nations as peoples, men, women, and children of like blood and frame as themselves, for whom Governments existed and in whom Governments had their life. They have regarded them merely as serviceable organizations which they could by force or intrigue bend or corrupt to their own purpose. They have regarded the smaller States, in particular, and the peoples who could be overwhelmed by force as their natural tools and instruments of domination.

Their purpose has long been avowed. The statesmen of other nations, to whom that purpose was incredible, paid little attention; regarded what German professors expounded in their classrooms and German writers set forth to the world as the goal of German policy, as rather the dream of minds detached from practical affairs, as preposterous private conceptions of German destiny, than as the actual plans of responsible rulers; but the rulers of Germany themselves knew all the while what concrete plans, what well-advanced intrigues lay back of what the professors and the writers were saying, and were glad to go forward unmolested, filling the thrones of Balkan States with German Princes, putting German officers at the service of Turkey to drill her armies and make interest with her Government, developing plans of sedition and rebellion in India and Egypt, setting their fires in Persia.

The demands made by Austria upon Serbia were a mere single step in a plan which compassed Europe and Asia, from Berlin to Bagdad. They hoped those demands might not arouse Europe, but they meant to press them whether they did or not, for they thought themselves ready for the final issue of arms.


Their plan was to throw a broad belt of German military power and political control across the very center of Europe and beyond the Mediterranean into the heart of Asia; and Austria-Hungary was to be as much their tool and pawn as Serbia or Bulgaria or Turkey or the ponderous States of the East. Austria-Hungary, indeed, was to become part of the Central German Empire, absorbed and dominated by the same forces and influences that had originally cemented the German States themselves. The dream had its heart at Berlin. It could have had a heart nowhere else! It rejected the idea of solidarity of race entirely.

The choice of peoples played no part in it at all. It contemplated binding together racial and political units which could be kept together only by force Czechs, Magyars, Croats, Serbs, Rumanians, Turks, Armenians the proud States of Bohemia and Hungary, the stout little commonwealths of the Balkans, the indomitable Turks, the subtle peoples of the East. These peoples did not wish to be united. They ardently desired to direct their own affairs, would be satisfied only by undisputed independence. They could be kept quiet only by the presence of the constant threat of armed men. They would live under a common power only by sheer compulsion and await the day of revolution. But the German military statesmen had reckoned with all that and were ready to deal with it in their own way.

And they have actually carried the greater part of that amazing plan into execution. Look how things stand. Austria is at their mercy. It has acted, not upon its own initiative nor upon the choice of its own people, but at Berlin's dictation ever since the war began. Its people now desire peace, but cannot have it until leave is granted from Berlin. The so-called Central Powers are in fact but a single power. Serbia is at its mercy, should its hands be but for a moment freed; Bulgaria has consented to its will and Rumania is overrun.

The Turkish armies, which Germans trained, are serving Germany, certainly not themselves, and the guns of German warships lying in the harbor at Constantinople remind Turkish statesmen every day that they have no choice but to take their orders from Berlin. From Hamburg to the Persian Gulf the net is spread.


Is it not easy to understand the eagerness for peace that has been manifested from Berlin ever since the snare was set and sprung? Peace, peace, peace has been the talk of her Foreign Office now for a year or more; not peace upon her own initiative, but upon the initiative of the nations over which she now deems herself to hold the advantage.

A little of the talk has been public, but most of it has been private. Through all sorts of channels it has come to me, and in all sorts of guises, but never with the terms disclosed which the German Government would be willing to accept. That Government has other valuable pawns in its hands besides those I have mentioned. It still holds a valuable part of France, though with slowly relaxing grasp, and practically the whole of Belgium. Its armies press close upon Russia and overrun Poland at their will. It cannot go further; it dare not go back. It wishes to close its bargain before it is too late, and it has little left to offer for the pound of flesh it will demand.

The military masters under whom Germany is bleeding see very clearly to what point fate has brought them. If they fall back or are forced back an inch their power both abroad and at home will fall to pieces like a house of cards. It is their power at home they are thinking about now more than their power abroad. It is that power which is trembling under their very feet; and deep fear has entered their hearts. They have but one chance to perpetuate their military power or even their controlling political influence.

If they can secure peace now with the immense advantages still in their hands, which they have up to this point apparently gained, they will have justified themselves before the German people; they will have gained by force what they promised to gain by it an immense expansion of German power, an immense enlargement of German industrial and commercial opportunities. Their prestige will be secure, and with their prestige their political power. If they fail, their people will thrust them aside; a Government accountable to the people themselves will be set up in Germany as it has been in England, in the United States, in France, and in all the great countries of the modern time except Germany. If they succeed they are safe and Germany and the world are undone; if they fail Germany is saved and the world will be at peace.

If they succeed then America will fall within the menace. We and all the rest of the world must remain armed, as they will remain, and must make ready for the next step in their aggression; if they fail the world may unite for peace and Germany may be of the union.
Do you not now understand the new intrigue, the intrigue for peace, and why the masters of Germany do not hesitate to use any agency that promises to effect their purpose, the deception of the nations? Their present particular aim is to deceive all those who throughout the world stand for the rights of peoples and the self-government of nations; for they see what immense strength the forces of justice and of liberalism are gathering out of this war.

They are employing liberals in their enterprise. They are using men, in Germany and without, as their spokesmen whom they have hitherto despised and oppressed, using them for their own destruction Socialists, the leaders of labor, the thinkers they have hitherto sought to silence. Let them once succeed and these men, now their tools, will be ground to powder beneath the weight of the great military empire they will have set up; the revolutionists in Russia will be cut off from all succor or co peration in Western Europe and a counter-revolution fostered and supported; Germany herself will lose her chance of freedom, and all Europe will arm for the next, the final, struggle.

The sinister intrigue is being no less actively conducted in this country than in Russia and in every country in Europe to which the agents and dupes of the Imperial German Government can get access. That Government has many spokesmen here, in places high and low. They have learned discretion. They keep within the law. It is opinion they utter now, not sedition. They proclaim the liberal purposes of their masters; declare this a foreign war which can touch America with no danger to either her lands or her institutions; set England at the center of the stage and talk of her ambition to assert economic dominion throughout the world; appeal to our ancient tradition of isolation in the politics of the nations, and seek to undermine the Government with false professions of loyalty to its principles.

But they will make no headway. The false betray themselves always in every accent. It is only friends and partisans of the German Government whom we have already identified who utter these thinly disguised disloyalties. The facts are patent to all the world, and nowhere are they more plainly seen than in the United States, where we are accustomed to deal with facts and not with sophistries; and the great fact that stands out above all the rest is that this is a people's war, a war for freedom and justice and self-government among all the nations of the world, a war to make the world safe for the peoples who live upon it and have made it their own, the German people themselves included; and that with us rests the choice to break through all these hypocrisies and patent cheats and masks of brute force and help set the world free, or else stand aside and let it be dominated a long age through by sheer weight of arms and the arbitrary choices of self-constituted masters, by the nation which can maintain the biggest armies and the most irresistible armaments a power to which the world has afforded no parallel and in the face of which political freedom must wither and perish.

For us there is but one choice. We have made it. Woe be to the man or group of men that seeks to stand in our way in this day of high resolution when every principle we hold dearest is to be vindicated and made secure for the salvation of the nations. We are ready to plead at the bar of history, and our flag shall wear a new luster. Once more we shall make good with our lives and fortunes the great faith to which we were born, and a new glory shall shine in the face of our people.

The war was now on. All the latent power of the nation of every kind was to be used in every way to help drive the German menace from the world. A visit to the new world by Marshal Joffre, Viviani, Lord Asquith and others helped to accelerate matters. No one will know until the war is ended just what took place in the councils between these great men of the old world and the leaders of the new.

Everyone does know, however, the instantaneous activity and enthusiasm which seized with compelling force upon the people of the United States.
But there must be a military leader. What was more natural than that the choice should fall upon General John Joseph Pershing? General Funston had died suddenly at San Antonio, Texas, and there was no one now to outrank the leader of the punitive expedition into Mexico.

So General Pershing was selected. The man who had feared he was to be ignored and left forgotten in the jungles of the Philippines was now to be the Commander of the American Expeditionary Force in France. Promotion once more had come to the man who had sought first to be worthy to be promoted.

The End

The Author: Everett T. Tomlinson