The Lusitania Massacre
I——What Should America Do?
[The Outlook, May 19, 1915]
The sinking of the Lusitania was not an act of war, it was a crime—the crime of murder. "War is a public armed contest between nations, under the sanction of international law, to establish justice between them." In the sinking of the Lusitania there was no armed contest, and the fundamental moralities of international law were violated. War is cruel; but it is not lawless. It is killing; but it is not murder. No such wholesale massacre of unalarmed and defenseless victims has been perpetrated in modern warfare since Bonaparte's massacre of defenseless prisoners on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea at Jaffa.
Has America any duty to disown this crime against itself, against the civilized world, against humanity?
We have seen American men murdered and American women violated in Mexico, and done nothing. We have seen the neutrality of weak nations violated, private property destroyed, defenseless cities bombarded, churches and hospitals, which civilized warfare has always regarded as sacred, demolished, and have said nothing. We have seen one American ship on the high seas bombarded from the air, and another torpedoed from the sea, and have declared that if another American life is lost we shall call the assailant to "a strict accountability." Now over a hundred American lives are lost. What shall we do? What ought we to do?
Does America owe any duty of protection to its citizens in foreign lands and on the high seas? Patient waiting has done nothing. Protesting words have done nothing. In the presence of wholesale assassination The Outlook is not neutral. We believe the time has come for National action. In such a crisis courage is a duty and timidity a crime.
We need not wait for official investigation. The murder is exultantly avowed. We need not wait for judicial investigation of the defenses offered. The War Zone? No nation has a right to put an invisible fence around a section of the open sea and warn all neutral nations off as trespassers, at the peril of their lives. Warning given? When did warning of an intent to commit murder serve as an excuse for the murder perpetrated? The Lusitania was armed? She was not armed; but she had a right to be. The Constitution of the United States recognizes the right of peaceable citizens to bear arms; international law recognizes to a similar reasonable degree the right of peaceable vessels to bear arms. She was carrying contraband? Then she might be sunk; but not until the safety of her crew and passengers was assured. Great Britain is starving Germany, therefore Germany has a right to murder American citizens? A strange logic! But Great Britain is not starving Germany. The laws of war forbid the murder of the unarmed, but they also declare in explicit terms that "it is lawful to starve a hostile belligerent, armed or unarmed, so that it leads to the speedier subjection of the enemy." The invention of airships and submarines has changed international law? John Bassett Moore is our authority for saying that it has not changed international law. Certainly it has not changed the Ten Commandments. The use of a novel instrument does not change the nature of the crime. Murder is still murder; and killing unarmed non-combatants in cold blood the conscience of all civilized nations still condemns as murder.
The time for words has passed; the time for National action has come. What action? Any action which vigorously and effectively disowns all fellowship with a nation which commits wholesale piracy on the high seas. The action which we hope will have been taken by the United States Government before this number reaches our readers is this:
We would have our Government at once call upon Germany to disown and repudiate her present practice of sinking merchant vessels without warning and without regard for safety of passengers and crew, and notify Germany that so long as she continues to disregard the rights of neutrals and the fundamental principles of humanity the United States will have no intercourse with her. We would have our Government give the German Ambassador his passport and call home from Germany the American Ambassador. We would publicly request by cable all the neutral Powers of the world to unite with us in this action if they declne, we would still take the action alone.
This does, not mean war against Germany.
But if, as a result, Germany declared war against us, we would have America meet the peril with the same spirit of courage with which our fathers met a greater peril in 1776 and in 1812. To this action there are objections. There are objections to any action. But there are still greater objections to inaction, for inaction means America's acquiescence in Germany's continuing policy of international crime.
We do not know the individual who is responsible for this piracy on the high seas. Not the German people. It is not their act. Germany is not a republic. Her Government is not responsible to her people. They have not directed its policy. They could not change it if they would; they cannot even give free expression to their opinions respecting it. Speech and press are free in America; they are free in England; they are not free in Germany. And where opinions cannot be freely expressed public opinion does not exist. It is created by expression. This piracy should stir no hate against the German people—only compassion and a new hope that they may become free.
It is not for us to judge even the director of these acts of barbaric brutality whoever he may be. He will be self-judged. The time will come when will pass away the burning fever of war which now blinds the eyes and hardens the heart, and the ghosts of his murdered victims, innocent of wrong, will surround with their accusing voices this now exultant assassin. We do not judge him. We leave this modern Richard III to his own self-judgment.
"I hate myself
For hateful deeds committed by myself!
I am a villain: yet I lie, I am not.
Fool, of thyself speak well: fool, do not flatter.
My conscience hath a thousand several tongues,
And every tongue brings in a several tale,
And every tale condemns me for a villain.
Perjury, perjury, in the high'st degree;
Murder, stern murder, in the direst degree;
All several sins, all used in each degree,
Throng to the bar, crying all, 'Guilty! Guilty!'"
THE PRESIDENT'S NOTE
The Outlook Office,
Friday Morning, May 14.
The foregoing editorial went to press yesterday morning. We stop the press to say that the President's message to the Imperial German Government is published this morning. The country has looked forward to it with mingled feelings of eagerness, anxiety, and confidence. Every patriotic American will greet it with hearty approval and satisfaction.
In accordance with diplomatic conventions it is signed by the Secretary of State, but manifestly it is written by the hand of the President himself. For style, spirit, courtesy, vigor, and the principles it expresses, it will take a high place among the state papers of our Government.
The President narrates the series of violations of American rights which culminated in the sinking of the Lusitania; assumes that "these acts, so absolutely contrary to the rules, practices, and the spirit of modern warfare" are not approved by the Imperial Government; asserts that Americans have the right to travel on merchant ships even when these ships are owned by belligerents; states as undebatable the fact that submarine warfare against merchant ships violates "many sacred principles of justice and humanity;" informs the Imperial German Government that the German Embassy at Washington printed a warning to the people of the United States in a newspaper advertisement, which was not only an act of diplomatic discourtesy, but which cannot possibly "be accepted as an excuse or palliation" for the death-dealing destruction of the Lusitania; takes it for granted that the commanders of the submarines who have torpedoed non-combatants acted "under a misapprehension of the orders' of the Imperial German Government; expresses the confident expectation that the Imperial German Government will make reparation, in so far as reparation for injuries which cannot be measured may be made, and will immediately take steps to prevent the recurrence of such injuries; and, finally, in the following striking passage states the intention of the Government of the United States to support its demands for justice by acting, if action is necessary:
The Government and people of the United States look to the Imperial German Government for just, prompt, arid enlightened action in this vital matter with the greater confidence, because the United States and Germany are bound together not only by specialties of friendship, but also by the explicit stipulations of the Treaty of 1828, between the United States and the Kingdom of Prussia.
Expressions of regret and offers of reparation in case of the destruction of neutral ships sunk by mistake, while they may satisfy international obligations, if no loss of life results, cannot justify or excuse a practice the natural and necessary effect of which is to subject neutral nations and neutral persons to new and immeasurable risks.
The Imperial German Government will not expect the Government of the United States to omit any word or any act necessary to the performance of its sacred duty of maintaining the rights of the United States; and its citizens and of safeguarding their free exercise and enjoyment.
The President's ultimatum is the first step in the procedure which we advocate in the editorial preceding this statement. He has cleared the atmosphere and made the issue plain.
Every loyal American should support the President in his hope that, Germany will accede to his just demands.
But if, unhappily, Germany decides against us, every loyal American, whatever his ancestry or his place of birth should be preparing now to omit no act necessary to the performance of his sacred duty of aiding the Government of the United States to protect its citizens, to maintain justice, and to preserve the foundations of its institutions.
II—THE STORY OF THE CRIME
On Monday of last week a British coroner's jury, in their finding on deaths caused by the sinking of the Cunard steams ship Lusitania, declared: "The jury finds this appalling crime was contrary to international law and the conventions of all civilized nations, and we therefore charge the officers of the submarine, and the German Emperor and the Government of Germany, under orders they acted, with the crime of willful and wholesale murder."
What was this crime, thus characterized?On the first day of May the Lusitania left New York City bound for Queenstown and Liverpool. Built eight years ago at a cost of seven and a half million dollars, she was one of the Cunard Line's famous trio of the largest, finest, and fastest British ships afloat—the Lusitania, Mauretania, and Aquitania. Aboard her were over two thousand men, women, and children. The day before she sailed the German Embassy issued a printed warning to Americans to the effect that if they sailed the high seas on British passenger ships they did so at the peril of their lives. It is said that individuals received also personal warnings in the form of telegrams, but there is doubt about this. Generally, the German warnings were regarded as "bluff" and great faith was put by the passengers in the Lusitania's speed, the belief that British warships would protect her, and in the feeling that no nation or ruler would be so dastardly as to destroy human life of neutrals and non-combatants by wholesale for remote military advantage and contrary to fixed principles of international practice. An unusual number of women, and especially children, were on board, many of them going to rejoin their husbands and fathers in England. The Lusitania was not armed, and never has been, but she did carry in her cargo munitions of war and other contraband.
On Friday, May 7, Captain Turner, of the Lusitania was on the bridge at two o'clock; many of the passengers were at their luncheon; the ship was running rather slowly—in order, as the captain says, that it might not reach port at a wrong stage of the tide. The Admiralty had by wireless informed Captain Turner of the presence of submarines in the Irish Channel, but had furnished no destroyers or other warships to guard the passage—in the House of Commons Winston Churchill has said that it was impossible so to guard all passenger ships, and it has even been doubted whether the presence of convoys would be a protection or a detriment. Mr. Simon Lake, the American submarine inventor, has declared that their smoke would attract submarines and that there really is no such thing as a submarine defense. In accordance with the Admiralty's directions, the ship was keeping a middle course in the channel. The position of the vessel on its way to Queenstown was off Old Head, Kin sale, ten miles or more from the Irish coast. Suddenly Captain Turner and several others, officers and passengers, saw, half a mile or so away and off the starboard side, the periscope of a submarine. What followed may be described in Captain Turner's words:
I saw a torpedo speeding toward us, and immediately I tried to change our course, but was unable to maneuver out of its way. There was a terrible impact as the torpedo struck the starboard side of the vessel, and a second torpedo followed almost immediately. This one struck squarely over the boilers.
I tried to turn the Lusitania shoreward, hoping to beach her, but her engines were crippled, and it was impossible.
There has been criticism because I did not order the lifeboats out sooner; but no matter what may be done there are always some to criticise. Until the Lusitania came to a standstill it was absolutely out of the question to launch the boats—they would have been swamped.
To this Captain Turner added: "I saw the torpedoes with my own eyes. It was cold-blooded murder." Some accounts say that the German submarine U-39 fired the fatal torpedoes.
The two torpedoes struck without any appreciable lapse of time between them. The ship instantly took a strong list to port, making it impossible to handle the boats on the starboard side. From the time of the attack until the sinking of the ship less than twenty minutes elapsed. There was a rush for life-belts. Some passengers threw off their outer clothing, and thereby helped their chances of floating; others put on heavy coats and furs, and few of these were picked up. Several boats were launched (perhaps ten), but not all successfully.
Queenstown had been informed by wireless, and in time many steamboats, ships, and tugs arrived and helped in the search for survivors and for bodies of the dead.
Incidents of heroism and coolness were not wanting. Thus, one deck steward has received warm praise for the way in which he cheered, and captained a boat-load of forlorn and helpless people. Mr. Alfred G. Vanderbilt, of the wealthy and famous family of that name, is described by an onlooker as taking off his life-belt to give to an old lady and as working hard to get children to the boats. He was going to Europe to expend his already efforts to render ambulance and hospital aid. He was among the lost. Mr. Charles Frohman, the most prominent figure in American theatrical circles, was also lost. He is said to have remarked to a companion: "Why fear death? It is the most beautiful adventure in life." Elbert Hubbard, the well-known writer; Justus M. Forman, novelist and playwright; Charles Klein, the dramatist, whose "Music Master" and other plays are know to every one, were among the Americans of special prominence who were lost.
There was no panic, although there has been some question as to the efficiency of the crew in handling boats and passengers. The time was terribly short and the difficulties of the case almost beyond description. The old Anglo-Saxon cry of," Women and children first" was heard and heeded. One passenger gives the following description of the scene:
On the decks of the doomed vessel absolute calmness prevailed. There was no rushing about and nothing resembling a panic. In a few isolated cases there were signs of hysteria on the part of women, but that was all. I did not notice any concerted effort to distribute life-belts; and I was unable to obtain one.
The efforts made to lower the boats had not apparently met with much success.
Women were standing quite calmly, waiting for an opportunity to enter the boats when they should be released by the men from the davits.
The same passenger, after telling how he dived from the ship, gives a pen picture of 'the actual sinking of the Lusitania:
I turned around to watch the great ship heel over. The monster took a sudden plunge, and I saw a crowd still on her decks, and boats filled with helpless women and children glued to her side. I sickened with horror at the sight.
There was a thunderous roar, as of the collapse of a great building on fire; then she disappeared, dragging with her hundreds of fellow creatures into the vortex. Many never rose to the surface, but the sea rapidly grew thick with the figures of struggling men and women and children.…"
The total toll of the dead as it appears at this writing is 1,150, of whom 114 were known to be American citizens and others to be of long American residence, although not citizens. Of the survivors, 465 were passengers, 302 were of the crew. The funeral services at Queenstown were touching and pathetic to the utmost degree. An inquiry is to be made into the tragedy by the British Board of Trade under the leadership of Lord Mersey, who presided over the Titanic inquiry. In the House of Commons the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, said:
I must make it plain that in no circumstances will it be possible to make public the naval dispositions for patrolling our coasts. Our resources do not enable us to provide destroyer escorts for mail and passenger ships. The Admiralty had general knowledge of the German warning issued in America, and from that knowledge and other information concerning submarine movements it sent warnings to the Lusitania and directions as to her course.
There was absolutely no warning given by the submarine before the attack; after the Lusitania sank a submarine emerged in the middle of the wreck and ruin, its officers surveyed the scene, and then the submarine submerged and doubtless fled to its base.
One writer truly says: "The ship was as defenseless against undersea and underhand attack as a Hoboken ferryboat in the North River would be against one of the United States battle-ships."
III—A DEFENSE FOR THE INDEFENSIBLE
If there were any hope entertained that Germany would repudiate the act of her submarines in destroying the Lusitania, and with it many hundreds of lives of non-combatants, many of whom were women and children, that hope was quickly dispelled.
Through the mouth of her non-official representative in this country, Dr. Edinburg, through the words of the German Ambassador to the United States, through an official statement from Berlin, and in every other possible way Germany has approved the massacre and has sought to give a defense for the act to the world and to history. A triple defense, indeed, is called for: First, toward Great Britain, for the violation of settled international law and the destruction of a British merchant ship without an opportunity to its crew and British subjects for escape; second to the United States for the deliberate, planned slaughter of American citizens; third, to the world for what is everywhere, except in German circles, regarded as the most terrible attack on human rights to life and safety that the world has known.
The essence of all the defenses put forth by Germany is, to speak plainly, that "might makes right;" German advantage in the war is a necessity, and therefore anything conceivable is justified if German advantage gains. As one writer of the countless letters to the newspapers tersely puts it: "If, on the one hand, you have an indirect military advantage for Germany and, on the other hand, the lives of American citizens—drown the Americans."
The German defense as against Great Britain is that the act was one of reprisal; that Great Britain first established a war zone by planting certain areas of the North Sea with fixed (not floating), mines (but, be it noted, without danger to neutrals or noncombatants, for all merchant ships were shown how to avoid the mines), and that she thereby overrode the right of neutrals to the use of the high seas and presented an example which Germany is following; that Great Britain also, in establishing later what she claims to be an effective blockade of German ports, extended the law of blockade as understood heretofore in international law, and that here Great Britain again led the way in violating neutral rights on the high seas; that accordingly the so-called German submarine blockade, and the proclamation of the German war zone are justified as acts of retaliation; that the conditions of submarine warfare are such that it is impossible to adhere to the recognized rules as to putting in safety the persons on board a hostile merchant vessel after capture and before the destruction of the vessel.
Going beyond this statement, the allegation was made both in Germany and the United States that the Lusitania was a war-ship, that it was armed, and that it carried large quantities of war material. Part of this assertion was quickly dropped; after positive affirmation by the British Admiralty, the Collector of the Port of New York, the captain of the Lusitania, and passengers on board that in no sense was the Lusitania an armed ship and that she never had been, this part of the German defense toned down to a loose statement that other British vessels have been armed and that they have tried to ram submarines, so that previous search became impossible. On the other hand, it is admitted that war material and contraband of war were carried on board the Lusitania, although there is a question as to the extent of this, and there is certainly more than question as to any force in the intimation that the carrying of contraband of war on a merchant ship makes it liable to destruction without regard to the safety of the people on board.
Wireless messages direct from Berlin last week declared that 'responsibility rests with the British Government, which, through its plan to starve the civilian population of Germany, forces Germany to resort to the retaliatory measures." Following this statement, the Berlin authorities declare that, if the so-called starvation plan is given up by the British Government, Germany will stop the kind of submarine warfare which attacks passenger ships wantonly and with danger to life. But this offer was never formally made before the crime was committed.
The case of the German Government as regards the loss of American lives, for which it has expressed "its heartfelt sympathy," is stated, in the same message from the German Foreign Office above quoted, in the words: "The German Government cannot but regret that Americans felt more inclined to trust English promises rather than to pay attention to warnings from the German side." Stress is put, with what force we will not here discuss, upon the fact that the German Embassy in the United States issued an advertisement just before the sailing of the Lusitania in which it declared that American life would not be safe on board British passenger ships. How far this theory can be carried is shown in the statement by Dr. Edinburg that "Americans could not be considered neutrals if they persisted, in the face of repeated warnings, in traveling on enemies ships within the war zone." Dr. Dernburg adds: "It is England that has created the new form of modern warfare by the use of the submarine, which ignores international law and the Hague agreements.… England has done this by establishing the long-range blockade."
Captain von Papen, a military attaché of the German Embassy, declares that it was "absolutely criminal for the Cunard Company to carry neutral passengers in a ship which was transporting explosives and munitions of war; …those who went aboard her went at their own risk. The warning was given seriously."
Another statement of the German case says: "It is claimed that Germany is observing international law in her submarine operations. Germany considers that law has been cast to the winds by her enemies.… Germany feels that she is justified, however, in doing anything, such as her submarine operations, in order to compel a return to law." That neutrals suffer is over and over again in German statements said to be entirely their own fault if they refuse to accept warnings. Those who argue in this way are ' fond also of asking whether it is more humane to torpedo a ship carrying contraband of war or to try to starve sixty million people by blockade.
Finally, for a defense of the outrage to human life and for the hideous suffering inflicted on innocent men, women, and children one looks in vain for anything like a defense based on principle or honor. "Anything to beat England" is not an unfair summary of Germany's moral defense.
IV—THE INTERNATIONAL LAW
The sinking of the Lusitania has raised the question in scores of newspapers and in the minds of many men whether there is left in the world any such thing as International Law, and, if so, how it applies in the present situation. To obtain some light on this perplexing problem a member of the editorial staff of The Outlook has had an interview with Professor Ellery C. Stowell, and here reports the result of that interview in the form of question and answer. Professor Stowell is Assistant Professor of International Law and Diplomacy at Columbia University, in the city of New York. It will be remembered that he contributed to The Outlook in its issue for February 17 an illuminating article on the operation of International Law in the European war.
Has International Law gone by the board?
Germany and the United States are on opposite sides of the question whether there is any such thing as International Law. Germany holds that there is no International Law superior to national necessity; the people of the United States believe that there is. That, too, is a question involved in the war. The Allies are fighting to maintain the faith that there is such a thing as International Law which nations are bound to observe.
Can a nation mark off a war zone in which it can do things which would be repugnant to International Law and humanity if done outside such war zone?
No such war zone, answered Professor Stowell, is known to International Law. The term "war zone" is not commonly used. The nearest precedent for such a zone is that set by England in the South African war. In that case, however, England, as a concession to Germany, waived certain rights outside the war zone and limited her activities to the region within it. In other words, that war zone was not for the extension but for the limitation of the activities of the belligerent. She had the right to search all vessels anywhere on the high seas; but she gave up this right and confined her search and seizure to the war zone itself. This is the very opposite of what Germany claims for the war zone which she has marked out (See Parliamentary papers in the case of the German steamship Bundesrath.)
Is a nation justified, in International Law, in sinking an unarmed peaceable vessel by the fact that she has published a general notice that she is going to do so?
If Germany had a right to sink a defenseless merchant vessel at all without providing for the safety of passengers and crew, she had the right to do so without announcing her policy. If she had no such right, the announcement of the policy, would not give it to her.
Does the use of submarines give a country the right to sink vessels in a way which would be illegitimate for ordinary naval vessels to sink them?
There is no limit to the invention of destructive agents and machines; but the ravages of these new inventions must be aimed only at the armed enemy. If it is lawless to sink without notice a peaceable vessel and drown the passengers and crew, it makes no difference whether that act is performed by one kind of vessel or another. If, for instance, in the future science should discover some way by which we could kill people by telepathy, a person who used telepathy for murder would be a murderer just the same as if he had used a knife or a gun.
Is the sinking of a peaceable vessel without notice and drowning passengers and crew justifiable as a method of reprisal?
Some authorities in International Law find reprisals so abhorrent that they go so far as to say that there are no rules to govern reprisals. They take the stand that was taken in making the Code Napoléon, when the French jurist said that he would not dignify duels by mentioning them. Nevertheless, reprisals have been often used; but as civilization has advanced they have become more and more abhorred. If reprisals are used, two clearly recognized principles should be observed: one, that they ought to conform as closely as possible to the dictates of humanity; and the other, that they ought to bear on the people to blame. At best, reprisals are relics of barbarism. They ought never to be directed against innocent third parties.
Are citizens of a neutral nation supposed to be taking their lives in their own hands when they embark on the merchantman of a belligerent or should they be protected from injury?
Any neutral who takes passage on a belligerent merchantman does not take his life in his hands. To sink a belligerent merchantman with her passengers is an act of war against the government of the neutrals as well as a crime against humanity. It is therefore contrary to International Law. The laws of war do not permit what is not expressly prohibited when contrary to the sentiments of humanity;
If an enemy merchantman is armed, may it be destroyed without notice?
Not unless the armament is so considerable as to make the merchantman lose its peaceful character; a small armament to resist pirates or any other attack except rightful seizure and confiscation, according to International Law is permissible.
If a merchantman carries contraband, is it sufficient justification for destroying her with passengers and crew?
No! The interest of the belligerent to prevent the delivery of the contraband is insignificant compared with the rights of humanity which such a deed would violate.
If a peaceable merchant vessel is guarded by the naval vessel of a belligerent, has she the same rights as if she were without convoy?
She has not the same rights. Even if she be a neutral vessel and is convoyed by a belligerent, she is liable to seizure. Indeed, such a merchant vessel is regarded as though she were armed and resisting search. The fact that a merchant vessel is convoyed may add to her peril. Naturally an enemy would attack the convoy rather than the merchant vessel; but he would be perfectly free to attack the merchant vessel also.
Is the breaking off of diplomatic relations with another country necessarily an act preparatory to war?
No. The whole question whether such an act would be war would depend, not upon International Law, but upon the feeling of the people under the circumstances. The resulting tension might lead to war.
What would the decent and proper way of refusing to associate with another nation?
The first thing to do would be to give that other nation a chance to make amends and to give pledges for the future. If such amends and pledges were refused, the Ambassador to that nation might be recalled, leaving that nation's Ambassador here but not receiving him except in the most formal way; or we might give that Ambassador his passports as well as recall our own, but leave our consular agents at their posts; or we might withdraw all our consular agents as well as our diplomatic representatives. The most serious aspect of a withdrawal of diplomatic representatives would be that they could no longer act for the subjects of the other nations at war who had been put in our charge. It also would be very difficult for the few remaking diplomats to look out for the interests of our citizens, burdened as they are already. Of course that would involve the sacrifice of many American interests in Germany.
What ought to be done in such a crisis as this?
Professor Stowell expressed strongly his opinion that the President should at once call Congress in session. The leadership in a democracy, said Professor Stowell, requires instant action in such a crisis. Days went by without a word from the President and the time for his leadership over the country passed; nobody knew what his neighbor was thinking and nobody had means of finding out. That time has gone by without the chance of recovery. Now the only means for the formulation of public opinion that remains is Congress. Professor Stowell gave these further reasons for the assembling of Congress at this time:
1. If it is true, as reported, that the President has not been taking advice in the forming of his opinion, but has been thinking out the matter alone, and reaching his conclusions first without getting the advice and counsel of others who represent the people, he has been following a very dangerous course. This is no time for the Nation's policies to be determined by the unaided conclusions of one man. If Congress were in session, that would not be possible.
2. It has been the glory of England at time that she has gone into this war under Parliamentary sanction. England and the United States have in common the conviction that government ought to be a government of and by the people, and the questions arising in great crises of the nation should be answered by the people and not by an oligarchy or an autocrat. This is what distinguishes the English-speaking people from the people of Germany. At such a crisis as this, therefore, it is important that the representatives of the people should assemble.
3. There is no way by which the public sentiment of a country can be so promptly ascertained as through Congress. To make an investigation covering the whole territory of the United States would take months, The assembling of Congress would not only afford a chance for finding out what public opinion is, but would tend to unite the people, for at a time of National danger the people tend to stand together. The assembling of Congress would, I think, promote this tendency toward union.
4. The summoning of Congress by the President would impress Germany as nothing else could with the serious spirit of the American people.
With this view as to the duty of the President to call Congress together The Outlook heartily agrees.
All the world stood appalled when an iceberg sent the Titanic to the bottom, says the Philadelphia "Ledger." "That was the littleness of men in conflict with the prodigious forces of nature." The "Ledger" continues:
But yesterday another giant of the sea was sent into the depths, not by an accident, not by a natural cataclysm, but by human beings intent on destruction, and with it went hundreds of innocent men, women, and children into untimely and terrible graves. It is inconceivable that such things can be, unspeakable that such deeds are perpetrated, intolerable that they should continue.
Among the few American papers which have called attention to any American responsibility is the La Crosse "Tribune." Its criticism is that Americans accepted an apparent hazard in the face of warnings. Had these Americans deliberately walked upon a battlefield under the flag of a belligerent nation, there would be little sympathy for them or excuse for their folly. Yet sailing upon, the ship of a belligerent nation through the perils surrounding entry of a blockaded port was hardly more sensible."
The "New Yorker Herald," a paper printed in German, thus chronicles the facts:
The German Government had, in an official advertisement made public throughout the entire nation, expressly and emphatically warned the traveling American public from using these British steamers. Every one not mentally blind must have known that it was impossible that such a warning could be meaningless and merely sent out to the empty air. The warning was almost brutally disregarded. It was called a "bluff," a "tactless," "impertinent" attempt to prevent American citizens from making use of their rights.
But the fact that the German Embassy gave warning before the Lusitania sailed "is not a mitigation but an aggravation of the hellish deed," asserts the South Bend, Indiana, "Tribune," writing on the same subject. "Its warning was an advertisement that Germany did not propose to heed the laws of civilized warfare; an advertisement of a massacre to be enacted on schedule."
There was a firm conviction among the friends of the American passengers on the Lusitania, especially in view of the German threat to destroy her that the British navy would provide war-ships to convoy her to her port, affirms the New York "Times." "Nobody believed that she would be permitted to enter the so-called war zone without due provision for her safety." The "Times" proceeds:
The neglect of the Admiralty either to send armored cruisers to meet her or to warn her captain by wireless of the presence of German submarines in her course seems unaccountable. The relative importance of the Lusitania in the British mercantile marine, led Americans who had business interests to look after in England to believe that, however unsafe navigation of the waters around the British Islands might be, no effort would be lacking to insure the safety of that vessel, carrying more than two thousand men, women, and children.
More sharply the Rochester "Union and Advertiser" thus comments:
The British Government allowed this great vessel, valued at several millions of dollars, and loaded with human beings, to come within the area where German submarines had but a few hours before had sunk vessels, without giving her even the slightest protection. It neglected its obvious duty to such an extent that merchant vessels were ahead of vessels of the British navy in reaching the spot where the ship had gone down and in giving help. No explanation of this disgraceful neglect offers itself at present, unless it be the colossal British conceit in its power upon the sea.
To similar criticisms the London "Times" rejoins:
It is clear from the large number of British liners every day using the ports and waters of the United Kingdom that it would be quite impossible to interfere with the general naval policy against detaching destroyers and other suitable craft to convoy each merchant ship. To do so in the case of selected boats, unless there were special national interests to safeguard, would obviously be unfair. If one ship is to be protected, all would claim a right to similar treatment.
The London "Morning Post" refuses to accept as adequate the suggestion of the "Times" that it is impossible to convoy every merchantman or to select special ones for protection, as it is well known that many liner routes are protected by fast cruisers and destroyers and the danger points, such as those in the vicinity of Queenstown, are patrolled anyway. The German threats against the Lusitania would surely have constituted "a case for Special protection, says the newspaper. It concludes: "The case demands the most searching scrutiny and investigation and says that there are at least three means of defense against the repetition of the Lusitania disaster. They are change of route, high speed, and the protection of cruisers or torpedo-boats.
Dr. Eugen Kühnemann, of the University of Breslau, who is acting as German exchange professor to American universities, declares, as reported, that the torpedoing of the Lusitania proves two things:
First, that Germany is determined and has the power to crush any nation that tries to starve her out; second, that the prestige of the English navy is gone forever.
It is shameful that England, with its powerful navy, is not able to protect its own commerce. With all her navy, England has been unable to protect one lonesome ship within sight of her own shores when she had advance information that the ship was to be destroyed, and knew how eager the Germans were to wreck it. In Germany the comment is interesting course, and grimly instructive.
In Germany the comment is interesting, of course, and grimly instructive. The Berliner "Tageblatt" says:
With deep emotion we learn of the destruction of the Lusitania, in which countless men lost their lives. We lament with sincere hearts their hard fate but we know we are completely devoid of blame. We may be sure that through the English telegrams communicated to the world indignation will again be raised against Germany, but we must hope that calm reflection will later pronounce the verdict of condemnation, against the British Admiralty.
The Cologne "Volkszeitung thus interprets the affair:
The sinking of the Lusitania is a success of our submarines which must be placed beside the greatest achievement of this naval war. The sinking of the giant English steamer is a success of moral significance which is still greater than material success. With joyful pride we contemplate this latest deed of our navy. It will not be the last.
The English wish to abandon the German people to death by starvation. We are more humane. We simply sank an English ship with passengers who at their own risk and responsibility entered the zone of operations.
Finally, there is the "Germania," the Clerical organ. This, paper says: "We can look forward to such efforts with a clear conscience, for we have proceeded correctly. We can only answer those who place their sympathies above justice that war is war."
In restful contrast to the above is the statement made to the New York "Times" by a prominent German-American business man:
I refuse to believe that Germany's new naval policy includes an order providing for explaining or justifying such an act as the sinking of the Lusitania. The attack on the Lusitania was murder, wanton murder, and as an American who loves the land of his fathers, and who believes in the justice of Germany's cause in this war, I cannot believe that the Berlin Government did, or does now, sanction an act which, over night has made more enemies for Germany than anything else that has happened before or during this war.
In this connection a despatch in the New York "Sun" reads as follows:
Professor John F. Coar, of the University of Rochester, instructor in German, declined Saturday to conduct his classes, and repeated his declination when college opened this morning. "I shall dismiss this class for to-day," he said. "I do not feel able this morning to teach the ideals of Goethe and Schiller, so wholly incompatible with the present conditions. I am inexpressibly unhappy that this should be so, but after what has happened it cannot be otherwise."
Of the sinking of the Lusitania Professor Coar declared: "The act of the German Government is a slap in the face of humanity. I have held my opinions from the members of my classes, but this last act of the Germans has lessened my restraint.
Professor Coar is a former Brooklyn man. He was born in Germany.
"Germany has no doubt lost, for a while, the very little sympathy which it enjoyed," admits the New Yorker "Herald."
American opinion in general is reflected by the Richmond "Virginian " when it says that "Germany had no more right over the persons and property of the neutral non-combatant passengers than a mob of outlaws has over the persons and lives of helpless women; or the Washington "Herald " when it avers:
There is no evidence to show that the Germans gave these two thousand innocent noncombatants warning or the smallest chance to save their lives; on the contrary, the meager accounts of their procedure at present available indicate a calculated effort to kill every one of them. It stands out now as a deliberate violation of the laws of nations and the laws of humanity, a hideous act of savagery—surpassing all previous atrocities of the war.
The sinking of the Lusitania, with her heavy freightage, of peaceful travelers, including hundreds of women and children, was not an act of war; it was a deed of wholesale murder," proclaims the New York "American;" and another New York paper, the "Mail," sums up the matter when it interprets the event as an offense "against all international law, against humanity, against the conscience of the world." Indeed, "it was the most infamous and unforgivable act of black murder in the history of the war," affirms the Albany "Knickerbocker Press." It adds: "When this war is over, are not the kings and rulers who are responsible for such fiendish assassination upon the high seas to be held personally responsible for their deeds by the civilized world?"
Says the Brooklyn "Eagle:"
The blow at humanity, at civilization, hard as it hits the world, hits Germany harder still. Its effects will be cumulative. The will grow wherever there is response to impulses other than those which are wolfish, bloody, and ravenous. They will convert Prussian, if not all German, militarism into a byword and a reproach.
"We are convinced that this one act will go farther to convince the whole world that German domination of the world would be relentless than have all previous acts of war," concludes the Augusta, Maine, "Kennebec Journal." We feel that yesterday must go down as a black Friday in German history; that since yesterday world sympathy for the German cause has shrunk tremendously."
As might be expected, the expressions of English opinion are impressive; for instance, that of the London "Chronicle:"
The blood of over fifteen hundred men, women, and children lies at the German Admiralty's door. It was a massacre whose scale and whose cold premeditation taken together render it almost unique among Christian records since the massacre of St. Bartholomew. If ever out of the ground or out of the sea blood cried for vengeance, surely that of the Lusitania's victims cries.
Says the London "News:"
It is doubtless the hope of the enemy to convert the importance of their blockade into a reality by terror. They have mistaken the temper of the people of these islands and all men, whatever their nationality, for whom civilization has a meaning. The traffic of the seas will continue as though no Germans lurked beneath the water to commit murder, and the task of bringing the murderers to justice and ridding the world of this horror of brutality will be carried on with sterner and fiercer energy.
An editorial which is attracting special attention, and which represents a view held in some well-informed quarters, is that of the London "Star:"
It is, we fear, certain that the Hohenzollern crew of criminals are now fighting to save themselves and not to save the German Empire. Their homicidal insanity is growing more frenzied every day. They are not waging war like a great nation which expects to live in amity with its enemies after war is over. They are waging war like murderers, who are selling their lives dearly.
The Kaiser and his blood-stained Court are assuredly at this moment dreading the awful apocalypse which will sooner or later burst upon the German people. They are treading the path which all tyrants have trodden. They know that defeat means revolution.
Be this as it may, in a letter to the London "Times" Lord Rosebery writes:
There are two or three points to be noted with regard to this infamy—(1) The moral degradation of a nation that can hail such a crime as a victory and rejoice over it. (2) The mental degradation of a nation which can offer warning as an excuse for a massacre. It is constantly proved in humbler cases of homicide that the murderer declared "I'll do him," but that has never saved a culprit from the gallows. (3) The stupidity of it. Never has that much claimed saying, "It is worse than a crime; it is a blunder," been more fully exemplified.
The editor of the Paris "Intransigent" writes as follows:
The Lusitania affair is all the more reprehensible in that one may defy the Germans to show in what way the destruction of this transatlantic liner can advance, even by one hour, the end of the war. Consequently it is a fruitless crime, without excuse. What is worse, the state of war is the pretext in this deed is commercial revenge.
The Paris "Temps" says:
In the universal terror which the Germans are organizing they seek to render all the elements their accomplices. Among all their crimes in air and on sea, no human being, traveler, or simple pedestrian in the street is any longer in complete security. To go and come has become sort of an act of faith, a manifestation of optimism.
'The Paris "Journal des Débats" asks "whether Germany is not seeking to antagonize all the world in order to have an excuse in the eyes of its people for the inevitable capitulation."
The Petrograd "Novoe Vremya" comes to the conclusion that a curse overhangs the German' nation. It continues: "They have completed their appointed circuit in history and will now be hurled headlong into the bottomless pit which they dug themselves."
The Petrograd "Courier" strikes an original note in saying:
War hitherto has been war through all the ages of history, namely, a fight between definite opponents. The Germans have turned this war into warfare against humanity at large. They are not content with killing their foes, but must murder every living thing they have a chance to destroy. Such being the case, it wants no very lively imagination to appreciate what Americans will think of this wholesale murder, not because American citizens have suffered, but because a blow has been struck in the back, and probably not the last blow, against the principle of American freedom.
Turning to the opinion expressed in neutral countries, we find that of Holland most interesting and significant. The Amsterdam "Tijd" says:
Neutrals who in these lamentable times have so often imposed restraint upon themselves in order to silence their feelings of horror and indignation must now acknowledge that another incident can be added to all the previous violations of laws, to the atrocious interpretations of treaties, and to the inhuman and devilish contrivances which Germany has been guilty of using in committing murder on a great scale.
The commander of the German submarine which sank the Lusitania can look with pride upon his work. Is not this so, Satan?
The "Telegraaf," also of Amsterdam, asks:
Does there still exist something like conscience among the neutrals? The neutral Powers remained silent when Belgian neutrality was trampled upon, when the Germans carried out practices profaning international law, and when submarine assassins took their first victims. Will they now look on inactively? Only the spontaneous joint protest of the entire civilized world, from which Germany has separated herself, can be an answer to the latest provocation.
The "Hovedstaden," of Copenhagen, is quoted as follows:
It is clear that Germany now holds herself outside of international law. Here is the embodiment of German military will. If the violation of Belgian neutrality; if Louvain, Senlis, and Rheims have not yet taught us Danes that neutrality is only a conception of a state, that it has nothing to do with the hearts of the citizens, then the Lusitania will teach us and all the world. Germany will know that the torpedo that hit the Lusitania also hit us and wounded the human feelings of the whole world.
The Christiania "Aftenposten" adds:
The conduct of the German submarines seeing now to have reached a climax. The whole world is filled with detestation and horror that in times of enlightenment such a deed can be penetrated by a nation of culture.
The "Nya Dagligt Allehanda," a conservative paper of Stockholm, says:
A cry of horror and indignation will rise from the civilized world. If Germans have sunk the floating palace solely because it was British, it is an unpardonable crime against humanity. One can hardly understand how an officer of the German navy could be able to perpetrate such an act. We must presume that the Germans have discovered that there were arms and munitions aboard. But the act remains, nevertheless, revolting and horrible.
The Rome "Giornale d'Italia," which is opposed to reflect the opinions of the Italian government, says:
That such a large proportion of the peaceful travelers on the Lusitania lost their lives sums up the atrocity of the crime which struck down men, women, and children, persons of all ages, conditions of life, and nationalities who could not assist of injure either belligerent. The warning published in America against leaving on the Lusitania shows that the crime was premeditated. Thus there are no extenuating circumstances.
The "Messaggero," also of Rome, declares that the torpedoing of the Lusitania is a more heavy blow to the German cause than would have been the loss of a great battle. This was amplified by the poet Gabriele d'Annunzio when informed of the merciless crime:
Germany is doing her best to array against her all the vital healthy and youthful forces of the civilized world, which would rather perish than allow brute force and barbarism to triumph.
But these forces cannot perish any more than can the dawn, any more than can the spring water from the virgin rock or the germinating seeds from the vitals of the earth.
From this baptism of blood of which the travelers on the Lusitania were the most innocent but perhaps fruitful victims, as it may provoke the participation of America in the war, will reign law, justice, and love on an indestructible basis, formed by the enlightened conscience of three continents.
A despatch from Athens says that the torpedoing of the Lusitania has aroused profound indignation throughout Greece. The Athens "Hestia" says':
This German crime affords an appropriate commentary on the German accusations of cruelties alleged to have been perpetrated by Russian troops in East Prussia. While undertaking to give lessons in the principles of nudity to others, they themselves commit the latest crimes against humanity.
In Asia we find the influential native organ of India, the Allahabad "Leader," saying: "And this is Germany, the leader of culture and civilization! Humanity can do very well without this culture and civilization."
To turn back to the Western Hemisphere, we find Argentinian opinion expressed by "La Nacion," of Buenos Aires, which declares that the torpedoing of the Lusitania without previous warning was an outrage against the rights of neutrals and has aroused the conscience of humanity.
WHAT SHALL WE DO?
Weeks ago President Wilson warned Germany that she would be held "to a strict accountability" if in pursuance of her war zone decree and the thinly veiled threat it conveyed she destroyed American lives, says the Richmond "Times-Despatch." "Well, Germany has carried out her threat. What are we going to do about it ?"
The New York "World" prints the following from the Hon. David Jayne Hill, former Ambassador to Germany:
When an appeal to the human, conscience proves a vain expedient, it is necessary to resort to other means to preserve the rights of citizens and the honor of a nation. Failure to do so would be an act of self-debasement too ignoble to consider for a moment. There are extremities of endurance that are revolting to our better natures. The situation by which we are confronted is not chiefly one of legality, it is a question of the future of civilization.
The New York "Times" reports Mr. Roosevelt as saying:
The sinking of the Lusitania was not only an act of simple piracy, but it represented piracy accompanied by murder on a vaster scale, than any old-trine pirate had ever practiced before being hung for his "misdeeds.
This is merely the application on the high seas, and at our expense, of the principles which when applied on land had produced the hideous tragedies that have occurred in Belgium and in northern France.
Not only our duty to humanity at large, but our duty to preserve our own National self-respect, demands instant action on our part and forbids all-delay. When the German decree establishing the war zone was issued, and of course plainly threatened exactly the type of tragedy which has occurred, our Government notified Germany that in the event of any such wrong-doing at the expense of our citizens we would hold the German Government to "a strict accountability." The use of this phrase, "strict accountability," of course, must mean, and can only mean, that action will be taken by us without an hour's unnecessary delay. It was eminently proper to use the exact phrase that was used, and, having used it, our own self-respect demands that we forthwith abide by it.
The New York "Sun" reports the following suggestion from Mr. Roosevelt:
Without twenty-four hours' delay this country could and should take effective action by declaring that, in view of Germany's murderous offenses against the rights of neutrals, all commerce with Germany shall forthwith be forbidden, and all commerce of every kind be permitted and encouraged with France, England, and the rest of the civilized world.
"A mere formal protest in words, an exchange of notes between the State Department and the German Embassy, between Ambassador Gerard and Wilhelmstrasse, amounts to nothing but a puff of wind; is tantamount to our acquiescence in Germany's new law of the seas," says, the Chicago "Tribune." "Let us not for one instant deceive ourselves as to that."
The Denver "Post" says:
It is infinitely better for a nation to perish from the face of the earth than to lose its honor, its manhood, or its self-respect…
There are worse things than wars; there are worse things than death.
The London "'Times," in discussing what the United States is likely to do to make good its official words, says:
No attempt at direct action could have any very material effect on the situation. The standing forces of the United States are so small that they could render little help at present in the saving of civilization from the menace that confronts it.
The London "Observer" concludes:
It is a profound mistake to think that because the American people have not drawn arms to vindicate the cause of public law and humanity they have taken no worthy part in the struggle. We can never be sufficiently grateful to them for the moral support which we have received from all that is greatest and worthiest in the American nation, and it would be a blunder if they permitted themselves in a moment of indignation, righteous though it be, to further the deep-laid plans, of Germans by picking up the gauntlet thrown down to them.
So much has been said of an alarming nature concerning the position of German-Americans in case of a possible war with Germany that we quote with great satisfaction the statements of three of them. The first is Mayor Blankenburg's, of Philadelphia:
Don't let any one for a moment divert you from the thought that you are an American forever and nobody's slave. Never let anybody, for selfish reasons, dictate what you shall do. Let no one, when age shall have come upon you, as it has upon me, point to you as one who has been an enemy of his country, or as having broken your oath of allegiance.
The second is that, reported in the New York "Globe," of the Rev. Dr. A. B. Moldenke, pastor of St. Peter's Lutheran Church in Lexington Avenue, one of the foremost German places of worship in New York City:
If the United States were to go to war against Germany, either over the Lusitania incident or for other cause, and the cause were regarded by the German-Americans as not just, even then Germans here would remain neutral. There is no fear that Germans resident here will be traitors to their adopted country. If the United States were to go to war against Germany with a just cause, German-Americans would go to war with their adopted country. Germans living here and enjoying the blessing of this country will not fight it. If they cannot fight with it, they will be neutral.
The third is that of Mr. Hermann Bidder, editor of the New York "Staats-Zeitung," in reply to the New York "Mail's" query: "What attitude do German-Americans take toward the German submarine policy as evidenced by the fate of their fellow-citizens on the Lusitania? Are they with the President of the United States or the Emperor of Germany?
I speak for myself, and I believe for great majority of German-Americans, when I say that we are with the President of the United States to the finish in all matters affecting National honor or National prestige.
I subscribe unqualifiedly to the statement of Carl Schurz; "My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; if wrong, to be set right."
It is important to remember, says ex-Governor Baldwin, of Connecticut, that should the assassination of American citizens on the Lusitania become the cause of difference between Germany and the United States, there are other means than war to which the United States could resort. What other means? The New York "Globe" replies:
The organization of a league of neutral states to compel the belligerents in the present war to cease from the murder of neutrals on the seas.
This is approved by a Texas paper, the Dallas "News." To suspend diplomatic relations with Germany would signify that Germany had made itself an Ishmaelite among nations. To league the neutral Powers in protest protest would have a like signification.
The Reverend Dr. Leighton Parks, of St. Bartholomew's Church, New York City, thus expresses it:
Let our brother, Germany, be unto us as a heathen, one who has cut himself off from the congregation of Israel, and a publican; this Germany which has loved education and has given to us a literature of its own, its music, its scientific achievements, its aspirations; this Germany which we had learned to admire and love.
Let us say to Germany, "You have placed yourself beyond the pale, and we cannot for the time being have anything to do with you."
Mr. George W. Wickersham, formerly United States Attorney-General, writes as follows to the New York "Times:"
A very clear course, it seems to me, is open for us to pursue.
We should cancel all diplomatic relations with a country which has declared war upon civilization, recall our Ambassador from Berlin, and hand Count Bernstorff his passports.
Congress should be summoned in extra, session, and an appropriation of at least $250,000,000 asked to put us in a condition to protect our rights as a neutral civilized Power.
At the same time we should invite all neutral nations of the world to join us in a council of civilization.
© J. Fred MacDonald, 2013
If you appreciate the articles, read the e-novel informed by them —
THE HEADLONG FURY
A Novel of World War One
By J. Fred MacDonald