Review the following list of questions before undertaking your study of the attached historical

documents. The First World War acted as a catalyst for economic, social, and political change

that helped shaped the twentieth century. Examine each question carefully.

Declaration of Neutrality (Wilson):

1. On what grounds did Wilson argue for the neutrality of the United States?

2. What might account for any evidence of political hypocrisy that the U.S. had no intentio n

to remain neutral; that from the start of the war they had, to some degree, already chosen

sides. What might argue to the contrary?

First Lusitania Note:

1. What was the purpose of this letter? What did the U.S. Department of State seek to

address to the German government and why?

2. How might the letter’s second half seem like a provocation to war with Germany? In

what ways does the sinking of the Luisitania represent the likelihood of war between

America and Germany?

Zimmerman Note (1917):

1. What is Germany’s intention with this telegram to Mexico and what did the German

government stand to gain with its intended acceptance by the Mexican government?

2. Predict how this telegram affected U.S. isolationists opinion of staying out of war in

Europe. Might this telegram have altered the course of history in regards to America’s

desire to stay neutral?

War Message (1917):

1. For what reasons does President Wilson give for America’s declaration of war on

Germany? Does his explanation appear to be one encouraged by imperialistic

expansionism as in the case of the Spanish-American War with former President

McKinley or from other outside pressures?

2. Is this a declaration of total war, as one against both the government and people of

Germany? What does this message to congress suggest of Wilson’s post-war goals

following a predicted victory against Imperial Germany?

Espionage Act (1917):

1. How does the Espionage Act both limit political dissent against the war and encourage

war production?

2. Is Wilson within his authority to organize such a decree? (Think back to the Alien and

Sedition Acts under John Adams). Is this act a violation of civil liberties?

Wilson’s Fourteen Points:

1. What is the intention of these fourteen points? Given the political circumstances of

France and England, are they attainable?

2. How do these benchmarks identified by Wilson connect to his goal of a unilateral

organization of nations working towards international cooperation? How does this goal

play out in the years immediately following the war?

Versailles Treaty (1919):

1. What did the treaty set out to accomplish? How was Germany treated and what can you

predict will be the end result of the policies set forth in this treaty?

2. How do the agreed upon clauses of the treaty contradict Wilson’s Fourteen Points?

Declaration of Neutrality

Digital History ID 3889

Author: Woodrow Wilson


Annotation: President Woodrow Wilson delivered a message to Congress on

August 19, 1914, declaring the neutrality of the United States in World War


President Wilson was reluctant to enter World War I. When the War began,

Wilson declared U.S. neutrality and demanded that the belligerents respect

American rights as a neutral party. He hesitated to embroil the United States

in the conflict, with good reason. Americans were deeply divided about the

European war, and involvement in the conflict would certainly disrupt

Progressive reforms. In 1914, he had warned that entry into the conflict

would bring an end to Progressive reform. “Every reform we have won will

be lost if we go into this war,” he said. A popular song in 1915 was “I Didn’t

Raise My Boy to Be a Soldier.”

Document: President Wilson’s Declaration of Neutrality

The effect of the war upon the United States will depend upon what

American citizens say and do. Every man who really loves America will act

and speak in the true spirit of neutrality, which is the spirit of impartiality

and fairness and friendliness to all concerned. The spirit of the nation in this

critical matter will be determined largely by what individuals and society and

those gathered in public meetings do and say, upon what newspapers and

magazines contain, upon what ministers utter in their pulpits, and men

proclaim as their opinions upon the street.

The people of the United States are drawn from many nations, and chiefly

from the nations now at war. It is natural and inevitable that there should be

the utmost variety of sympathy and desire among them with regard to the

issues and circumstances of the conflict. Some will wish one nation, others

another, to succeed in the momentous struggle. It will be easy to excite

passion and difficult to allay it. Those responsible for exciting it will assume a

heavy responsibility, responsibility for no less a thing than that the people of

the United States, whose love of their country and whose loyalty to its

government should unite them as Americans all, bound in honor and

affection to think first of her and her interests, may be divided in camps of

hostile opinion, hot against each other, involved in the war itself in impulse

and opinion if not in action.

Such divisions amongst us would be fatal to our peace of mind and might

seriously stand in the way of the proper performance of our duty as the one

great nation at peace, the one people holding itself ready to play a part of

impartial mediation and speak the counsels of peace and accommodation,

not as a partisan, but as a friend.

I venture, therefore, my fellow countrymen, to speak a solemn word of

warning to you against that deepest, most subtle, most essential breach of

neutrality which may spring out of partisanship, out of passionately taking

sides. The United States must be neutral in fact, as well as in name, during

these days that are to try men’s souls. We must be impartial in thought, as

well as action, must put a curb upon our sentiments, as well as upon every

transaction that might be construed as a preference of one party to the

struggle before another.

Copyright 2012 Digital History

The First Lusitania Note

Digital History ID 3897

Author: Woodrow Wilson


Annotation: The British ocean liner, Lusitania, was sunk by a German

submarine off the coast of Ireland on May 7, 1915. The British Admiralty had

warned the Lusitania to avoid the area after threats were made by Germany

that they were prepared to sink ships. But the crew refused to heed these

warnings. The ship was carrying munitions for the Allies, although it was

unarmed. The attack resulted in the loss of more than 1,100 passengers and

crew, including 124 Americans.

The following note was sent by President Wilson under the signature of

Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan.

Document: Department of State, Washington, May 13, 1915

To Ambassador Gerard:

Please call on the Minister of Foreign Affairs and after reading to him this

communication leave with him a copy.

In view of recent acts of the German authorities in violation of American

rights on the high seas which culminated in the torpedoing and sinking of

the British steamship Lusitania on May 7, 1915, by which over 100 American

citizens lost their lives, it is clearly wise and desirable that the Government

of the United States and the Imperial German Government should come to a

clear and full understanding as to the grave situation which has resulted.

The sinking of the British passenger steamer Falaba by a German submarine

on March 28, through which Leon C. Thrasher, an American citizen, was

drowned; the attack on April 28 on the American vessel Cushing by a

German aeroplane; the torpedoing on May 1 of the American vessel Gulflight

by a German submarine, as a result of which two or more American citizens

met their death and, finally, the torpedoing and sinking of the steamship

Lusitania, constitute a series of events which the Government of the United

States has observed with growing concern, distress, and amazement.

Recalling the humane and enlightened attitude hitherto assumed by the

Imperial German Government in matters of international right, and

particularly with regard to the freedom of the seas; having learned to

recognize the German views and the German influence in the field of

international obligation as always engaged upon the side of justice and

humanity; and having understood the instructions of the Imperial German

Government to its naval commanders to be upon the same plane of human

action prescribed by the naval codes of other nations, the Government of the

United States was loath to believe — it cannot now bring itself to believe —

that these acts, so absolutely contrary to the rules, the practices, and the

spirit of modern warfare, could have the countenance or sanction of that

great Government. It feels it to be its duty, therefore, to address the

Imperial German Government concerning them with the utmost frankness

and in the earnest hope that it is not mistaken in expecting action on the

part of the Imperial German Government which will correct the unfortunate

impressions which have been created and vindicate once more the position

of that Government with regard to the sacred freedom of the seas.

The Government of the United States has been apprised that the Imperial

German Government considered themselves to be obliged by the

extraordinary circumstances of the present war and the measures adopted

by their adversaries in seeking to cut Germany off from all commerce, to

adopt methods of retaliation which go much beyond the ordinary methods of

warfare at sea, in the proclamation of a war zone from which they have

warned neutral ships to keep away. This Government has already taken

occasion to inform the Imperial German Government that it cannot admit

the adoption of such measures or such a warning of danger to operate as in

any degree an abbreviation of the rights of American shipmasters or of

American citizens bound on lawful errands as passengers on merchant ships

of belligerent nationality; and that it must hold the Imperial German

Government to a strict accountability for any infringement of those rights,

intentional or incidental….

The Government of the United States, therefore, desires to call the attention

of the Imperial German Government with the utmost earnestness to the fact

that the objection to their present method of attack against the trade of

their enemies lies in the practical impossibility of employing submarines in

the destruction of commerce without disregarding those rules of fairness,

reason, justice, and humanity, which all modern opinion regards as

imperative…. The Government and the people of the United States look to

the Imperial German Government for just, prompt, and enlightened action in

this vital matter with the greater confidence because the United States and

Germany are bound together not only for special ties 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.

Copyright 2012 Digital History

Zimmermann Note

Digital History ID 3900


Annotation: In January 1917, Germany announced that it would resume

unrestricted submarine warfare. This announcement helped precipitate

American entry into the conflict. Germany hoped to win the war within five

months, and they were willing to risk antagonizing Wilson on the assumption

that even if the United States declared war, it could not mobilize quickly

enough to change the course of the conflict.

Then a fresh insult led Wilson to demand a declaration of war. In March

1917, newspapers published the Zimmerman Note, an intercepted telegram

from the German Foreign Secretary Arthur Zimmerman to the German

ambassador to Mexico. The telegram said that if Germany went to war with

the United States, Germany promised to help Mexico recover the territory it

had lost during the 1840s, including Texas, New Mexico, California, and

Arizona. The Zimmerman Note and German attacks on three U.S. ships in

mid-March led Wilson to ask Congress for a declaration of war.

Wilson decided to enter the war so that he could help design the peace

settlement. Wilson viewed the war as an opportunity to destroy German

militarism. “The world must be made safe for democracy,” he told a joint

session of Congress. Only 6 Senators and 50 Representatives voted against

the war declaration.

Document: The Zimmerman Note to the German Minister to Mexico

Berlin, January 19, 1917

On the first of February we intend to begin submarine warfare unrestricted.

In spite of this, it is our intention to endeavor 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….

You are instructed to inform the President of Mexico of the above in the

greatest confidence as soon as it is certain that there will be an outbreak of

war with the United States and suggest that the President of Mexico, on his

own initiative, should communicate with Japan suggesting adherence at once

to this plan; at the same time, offer to mediate between Germany and


Please call to the attention of the President of Mexico that the employment

of ruthless submarine warfare now promises to compel England to make

peace in a few months.

Zimmerman (Secretary of State)

Copyright 2012 Digital History

War Message

Digital History ID 3899

Author: Woodrow Wilson


Annotation: On February 3, 1917, President Wilson addressed Congress to

announce that diplomatic relations with Germany had been severed. On April

2, 1917, President Wilson delivered this ‘War Message’ to Congress. Four

days later, Congress overwhelmingly passed the War Resolution which

brought the United States into the Great War.

Document: Gentlemen of the Congress:

I have called the Congress into extraordinary session because there are

serious, very serious, choices of policy to be made, and made immediately,

which it was neither right nor constitutionally permissible that I should

assume the responsibility of making.

On the 3d of February last I officially laid before you the extraordinary

announcement of the Imperial German Government that on and after the 1st

day of February it was its purpose to put aside all restraints of law or of

humanity and use its submarines to sink every vessel that sought to

approach either the ports of Great Britain and Ireland or the western coasts

of Europe or any of the ports controlled by the enemies of Germany within

the Mediterranean. That had seemed to be the object of the German

submarine warfare earlier in the war, but since April of last year the Imperial

Government had somewhat restrained the commanders of its undersea craft

in conformity with its promise then given to us that passenger boats should

not be sunk and that due warning would be given to all other vessels which

its submarines might seek to destroy, when no resistance was offered or

escape attempted, and care taken that their crews were given at least a fair

chance to save their lives in their open boats. The precautions taken were

meager and haphazard enough, as was proved in distressing instance after

instance in the progress of the cruel and unmanly business, but a certain

degree of restraint was observed. The new policy has swept every restriction

aside. Vessels of every kind, whatever their flag, their character, their cargo,

their destination, their errand, have been ruthlessly sent to the bottom

without warning and without thought of help or mercy for those on board,

the vessels of friendly neutrals along with those of belligerents. Even

hospital ships and ships carrying relief to the sorely bereaved and stricken

people of Belgium, though the latter were provided with safe-conduct

through the proscribed areas by the German Government itself and were

distinguished by unmistakable marks of identity, have been sunk with the

same reckless lack of compassion or of principle.

I was for a little while unable to believe that such things would in fact be

done by any government that had hitherto subscribed to the humane

practices of civilized nations. International law had its origin in the attempt

to set up some law which would be respected and observed upon the seas,

where no nation had right of dominion and where lay the free highways of

the world. By painful stage after stage has that law been built up, with

meager enough results, indeed, after all was accomplished that could be

accomplished, but always with a clear view, at least, of what the heart and

conscience of mankind demanded. This minimum of right the German

Government has swept aside under the plea of retaliation and necessity and

because it had no weapons which it could use at sea except these which it is

impossible to employ as it is employing them without throwing to the winds

all scruples of humanity or of respect for the understandings that were

supposed to underlie the intercourse of the world. I am not now thinking of

the loss of property involved, immense and serious as that is, but only of the

wanton and 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.

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

be. The present German submarine warfare against commerce is a warfare

against mankind.

It is a war against all nations. American ships have been sunk, American

lives taken, in ways which it has stirred us very deeply to learn of, but the

ships and people of other neutral and friendly nations have been sunk and

overwhelmed in the waters in the same way. There has been no

discrimination. The challenge is to all mankind. Each nation must decide for

itself how it will meet it. The choice we make for ourselves must be made

with a moderation of counsel and a temperateness of judgment befitting our

character and our motives as a nation. We must put excited feeling away.

Our motive will not be revenge or the victorious assertion of the physical

might of the nation, but only the vindication of right, of human right, of

which we are only a single champion.

When I addressed the Congress on the 26th of February last, I thought that

it would suffice to assert our neutral rights with arms, our right to use the

seas against unlawful interference, our right to keep our people safe against

unlawful violence. But armed neutrality, it now appears, is impracticable.

Because submarines are in effect outlaws when used as the German

submarines have been used against merchant shipping, it is impossible to

defend ships against their attacks as the law of nations has assumed that

merchantmen would defend themselves against privateers or cruisers,

visible craft giving chase upon the open sea. It is common prudence in such

circumstances, grim necessity indeed, to endeavor to destroy them before

they have shown their own intention. They must be dealt with upon sight, if

dealt with at all. The German Government denies the right of neutrals to use

arms at all within the areas of the sea which it has proscribed, even in the

defense of rights which no modern publicist has ever before questioned their

right to defend. The intimation is conveyed that the armed guards which we

have placed on our merchant ships will be treated as beyond the pale of law

and subject to be dealt with as pirates would be. Armed neutrality is

ineffectual enough at best; in such circumstances and in the face of such

pretensions it is worse than ineffectual; it is likely only to produce what it

was meant to prevent; it is practically certain to draw us into the war

without either the rights or the effectiveness of belligerents. There is one

choice we can not make, we are incapable of making: we will not choose the

path of submission and suffer the most sacred rights of our nation and our

people to be ignored or violated. The wrongs against which we now array

ourselves are no common wrongs; they cut to the very roots of human life.

With a profound sense of the solemn and even tragical character of the step

I am taking and of the grave responsibilities which it involves, but in

unhesitating obedience to what I deem my constitutional duty, I advise that

the Congress declare the recent course of the Imperial German Government

to be in fact nothing less than war against the Government and people of the

United States; that it formally accept the status of belligerent which has thus

been thrust upon it, and that it take immediate steps not only to put the

country in a more thorough state of defense but also to exert all its power

and employ all its resources to bring the Government of the German Empire

to terms and end the war.

What this will involve is clear. It will involve the utmost practicable

cooperation in counsel and action with the governments now at war with

Germany, and, as incident to that, the extension to those governments of

the most liberal financial credits, in order that our resources may so far as

possible be added to theirs. It will involve the organization and mobilization

of all the material resources of the country to supply the materials of war

and serve the incidental needs of the nation in the most abundant and yet

the most economical and efficient way possible. It will involve the immediate

full equipment of the Navy in all respects but particularly in supplying it with

the best means of dealing with the enemy’s submarines. It will involve the

immediate addition to the armed forces of the United States already

provided for by law in case of war at least 500,000 men, who should, in my

opinion, be chosen upon the principle of universal liability to service, and

also the authorization of subsequent additional increments of equal force so

soon as they may be needed and can be handled in training. It will involve

also, of course, the granting of adequate credits to the Government,

sustained, I hope, so far as they can equitably be sustained by the present

generation, by well conceived taxation….

While we do these things, these deeply momentous things, let us be very

clear, and make very clear to all the world what our motives and our objects

are. My own thought has not been driven from its habitual and normal

course by the unhappy events of the last two months, and I do not believe

that the thought of the nation has been altered or clouded by them I have

exactly the same things in mind now that I had in mind when I addressed

the Senate on the 22d of January last; the same that I had in mind when I

addressed the Congress on the 3d of February and on the 26th of February.

Our object now, as then, is to vindicate the principles of peace and justice in

the life of the world as against selfish and autocratic power and to set up

amongst the really free and self-governed peoples of the world such a

concert of purpose and of action as will henceforth ensure the observance of

those principles. Neutrality is no longer feasible or desirable where the peace

of the world is involved and the freedom of its peoples, and the menace to

that peace and freedom lies in the existence of autocratic governments

backed by organized force which is controlled wholly by their will, not by the

will of their people. We have seen the last of neutrality in such

circumstances. We are at the beginning of an age in which it will be insisted

that the same standards of conduct and of responsibility for wrong done

shall be observed among nations and their governments that are observed

among the individual citizens of civilized states.

We have no quarrel with the German people. We have no feeling towards

them but one of sympathy and friendship. It was not upon their impulse that

their Government acted in entering this war. It was not with their previous

knowledge or approval. It was a war determined upon as wars used to be

determined upon in the old, unhappy days when peoples were nowhere

consulted by their rulers and wars were provoked and waged in the interest

of dynasties or of little groups of ambitious men who were accustomed to

use their fellow men as pawns and tools. Self-governed nations do not fill

their neighbor states with spies or set the course of intrigue to bring about

some critical posture of affairs which will give them an opportunity to strike

and make conquest. Such designs can be successfully worked out only under

cover and where no one has the right to ask questions. Cunningly contrived

plans of deception or aggression, carried, it may be, from generation to

generation, can be worked out and kept from the light only within the

privacy of courts or behind the carefully guarded confidences of a narrow

and privileged class. They are happily impossible where public opinion

commands and insists upon full information concerning all the nation’s


A steadfast concert for peace can never be maintained except by a

partnership of democratic nations. No autocratic government could be

trusted to keep faith within it or observe its covenants. It must be a league

of honor, a partnership of opinion. Intrigue would eat its vitals away; the

plotting of inner circles that could plan what they would and render account

to no one would be a corruption seated at its very heart. Only free peoples

can hold their purpose and their honor steady to a common end and prefer

the interests of mankind to any narrow interest of their own.

Does not every American feel that assurance has been added to our hope for

the future peace of the world by the wonderful and heartening things that

have been happening within the last few weeks in Russia? Russia was known

by those who knew it best to have been always in fact democratic at heart,

in all the vital habits of her thought, in all the intimate relationships of her

people that spoke their natural instinct, their habitual attitude towards life.

The autocracy that crowned the summit of her political structure, long as it

had stood and terrible as was the reality of its power, was not in fact Russian

in origin, character, or purpose; and now it has been shaken off and the

great, generous Russian people have been added in all their naive majesty

and might to the forces that are fighting for freedom in the world, for

justice, and for peace. Here is a fit partner for a league of honor.

One of the things that has served to convince us that the Prussian autocracy

was not and could never be our friend is that from the very outset of the

present war it has filled our unsuspecting communities and even our offices

of government with spies and set criminal intrigues everywhere afoot against

our national unity of counsel, our peace within and without our industries

and our commerce. Indeed it is now evident that its spies were here even

before the war began; and it is unhappily not a matter of conjecture but a

fact proved in our courts of justice that the intrigues which have more than

once come perilously near to disturbing the peace and dislocating the

industries of the country have been carried on at the instigation, with the

support, and even under the personal direction of official agents of the

Imperial Government accredited to the Government of the United States.

Even in checking these things and trying to extirpate them we have sought

to put the most generous interpretation possible upon them because we

knew that their source lay, not in any hostile feeling or purpose of the

German people towards us (who were, no doubt, as ignorant of them as we

ourselves were), but only in the selfish designs of a Government that did

what it pleased and told its people nothing. But they have played their part

in serving to convince us at last that that Government entertains no real

friendship for us and means to act against our peace and security at its

convenience. That it means to stir up enemies against us at our very doors

the intercepted [Zimmermann] note to the German Minister at Mexico City is

eloquent evidence.

We are accepting this challenge of hostile purpose because we know that in

such a government, following such methods, we can never have a friend;

and that in the presence of its organized power, always lying in wait to

accomplish we know not what purpose, there can be no assured security for

the democratic governments of the world. We are now about to accept gage

of battle with this natural foe to liberty and shall, if necessary, spend the

whole force of the nation to check and nullify its pretensions and its power.

We are glad, now that we see the facts with no veil of false pretence about

them, to fight thus for the ultimate peace of the world and for the liberation

of its peoples, the German peoples included: for the rights of nations great

and small and the privilege of men everywhere to choose their way of life

and of obedience. The world must be made safe for democracy. Its peace

must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty. We have no

selfish ends to serve. We desire no conquest, no dominion. We seek no

indemnities for ourselves, no material compensation for the sacrifices we

shall freely make. We are but one of the champions of the rights of mankind.

We shall be satisfied when those rights have been made as secure as the

faith and the freedom of nations can make them.

Just because we fight without rancor and without selfish object, seeking

nothing for ourselves but what we shall wish to share with all free peoples,

we shall, I feel confident, conduct our operations as belligerents without

passion and ourselves observe with proud punctilio the principles of right

and of fair play we profess to be fighting for.

I have said nothing of the governments allied with the Imperial Government

of Germany because they have not made war upon us or challenged us to

defend our right and our honor. The Austro-Hungarian Government has,

indeed, avowed its unqualified endorsement and acceptance of the reckless

and lawless submarine warfare adopted now without disguise by the

Imperial German Government, and it has therefore not been possible for this

Government to receive Count Tarnowski, the Ambassador recently

accredited to this Government by the Imperial and Royal Government of

Austria-Hungary; but that Government has not actually engaged in warfare

against citizens of the United States on the seas, and I take the liberty, for

the present at least, of postponing a discussion of our relations with the

authorities at Vienna. We enter this war only where we are clearly forced

into it because there are no other means of defending our rights.

It will be all the easier for us to conduct ourselves as belligerents in a high

spirit of right and fairness because we act without animus, not in enmity

towards a people or with the desire to bring any injury or disadvantage upon

them, but only in armed opposition to an irresponsible government which

has thrown aside all considerations of humanity and of right and is running

amuck. We are, let me say again, the sincere friends of the German people,

and shall desire nothing so much as the early reestablishment of intimate

relations of mutual advantage between us — however hard it may be for

them, for the time being, to believe that this is spoken from our hearts. We

have borne with their present government through all these bitter months

because of that friendship — exercising a patience and forbearance which

would otherwise have been impossible. We shall, happily, still have an

opportunity to prove that friendship in our daily attitude and actions towards

the millions of men and women of German birth and native sympathy, who

live amongst us and share our life, and we shall be proud to prove it towards

all who are in fact loyal to their neighbors and to the Government in the

hour of test. They are, most of them, as true and loyal Americans as if they

had never known any other fealty or allegiance. They will be prompt to stand

with us in rebuking and restraining the few who may be of a different mind

and purpose. If there should be disloyalty, it will be dealt with a firm hand of

stern repression; but, if it lifts its head at all, it will lift it only here and there

and without countenance except from a lawless and malignant few.

It is a distressing and oppressive duty, gentlemen of the Congress, which I

have performed in thus addressing you. There are, it may be, many months

of fiery trial and sacrifice ahead of us. It is a fearful thing to lead this great

peaceful people into war, into the most terrible and disastrous of all wars,

civilization itself seeming to be in the balance. But the right is more precious

than peace, and we shall fight for the things which we have always carried

nearest our hearts — for democracy, for the right of those who submit to

authority to have a voice in their own governments, for the rights and

liberties of small nations, for a universal dominion of right by such a concert

of free peoples as shall bring peace and safety to all nations and make the

world itself at last free. To such a task we can dedicate our lives and our

fortunes, everything that we are and everything that we have, with the pride

of those who know that the day has come when America is privileged to

spend her blood and her might for the principles that gave her birth and

happiness and the peace which she has treasured. God helping her, she can

do no other.

Copyright 2012 Digital History

The Espionage Act of 1917

Digital History ID 3904


Annotation: America declarated war with Germany in April 1917. Two

months later, the U.S. Congress passed the Espionage Act, which defined

espionage during wartime.

The Act was amended in May 1918.

In his war message to Congress, President Wilson had warned that the war

would require a redefinition of national loyalty. There were “millions of men

and women of German birth and native sympathy who live amongst us,” he

said. “If there should be disloyalty, it will be dealt with a firm hand of


In June 1917, Congress passed the Espionage Act. The piece of legislation

gave postal officials the authority to ban newspapers and magazines from

the mails and threatened individuals convicted of obstructing the draft with

$10,000 fines and 20 years in jail.

Congress passed the Sedition Act of 1918, which made it a federal offense to

use “disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language” about the

Constitution, the government, the American uniform, or the flag. The

government prosecuted over 2,100 people under these acts.


The Espionage Act of June 15, 1917


Section 1

That: (a) whoever, for the purpose of obtaining information respecting the

national defence with intent or reason to believe that the information to be

obtained is to be used to the injury of the United States, or to the advantage

of any foreign nation, goes upon, enters, flies over, or otherwise obtains

information, concerning any vessel, aircraft, work of defence, navy yard,

naval station, submarine base, coaling station, fort, battery, torpedo station,

dockyard, canal, railroad, arsenal, camp, factory, mine, telegraph,

telephone, wireless, or signal station, building, office, or other place

connected with the national defence, owned or constructed, or in progress of

construction by the United States or under the control or the United States,

or of any of its officers or agents, or within the exclusive jurisdiction of the

United States, or any place in which any vessel, aircraft, arms, munitions, or

other materials or instruments for use in time of war are being made,

prepared, repaired. or stored, under any contract or agreement with the

United States, or with any person on behalf of the United States, or

otherwise on behalf of the United States, or any prohibited place within the

meaning of section six of this title; or

(b) whoever for the purpose aforesaid, and with like intent or reason to

believe, copies, takes, makes, or obtains, or attempts, or induces or aids

another to copy, take, make, or obtain, any sketch, photograph,

photographic negative, blue print, plan, map, model, instrument, appliance,

document, writing or note of anything connected with the national defence;


(c) whoever, for the purpose aforesaid, receives or obtains or agrees or

attempts or induces or aids another to receive or obtain from any other

person, or from any source whatever, any document, writing, code book,

signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blue print, plan,

map, model, instrument, appliance, or note, of anything connected with the

national defence, knowing or having reason to believe, at the time he

receives or obtains, or agrees or attempts or induces or aids another to

receive or obtain it, that it has been or will be obtained, taken, made or

disposed of by any person contrary to the provisions of this title; or

(d) whoever, lawfully or unlawfully having possession of, access to, control

over, or being entrusted with any document, writing, code book, signal

book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blue print, plan, map,

model, instrument, appliance, or note relating to the national defence,

wilfully communicates or transmits or attempts to communicate or transmit

the same and fails to deliver it on demand to the officer or employee of the

United States entitled to receive it; or

(e) whoever, being entrusted with or having lawful possession or control of

any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph,

photographic negative, blue print, plan, map, model, note, or information,

relating to the national defence, through gross negligence permits the same

to be removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in

violation of his trust, or to be list, stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, shall be

punished by a fine of not more than $10,000, or by imprisonment for not

more than two years, or both.

Section 2

Whoever, with intent or reason to believe that it is to be used to the injury

or the United States or to the advantage of a foreign nation, communicated,

delivers, or transmits, or attempts to, or aids, or induces another to,

communicate, deliver or transmit, to any foreign government, or to any

faction or party or military or naval force within a foreign country, whether

recognized or unrecognized by the United States, or to any representative,

officer, agent, employee, subject, or citizen thereof, either directly or

indirectly and document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch,

photograph, photographic negative, blue print, plan, map, model, note,

instrument, appliance, or information relating to the national defence, shall

be punished by imprisonment for not more than twenty years: Provided,

That whoever shall violate the provisions of subsection:

(a) of this section in time of war shall be punished by death or by

imprisonment for not more than thirty years; and

(b) whoever, in time of war, with intent that the same shall be

communicated to the enemy, shall collect, record, publish or communicate,

or attempt to elicit any information with respect to the movement, numbers,

description, condition, or disposition of any of the armed forces, ships,

aircraft, or war materials of the United States, or with respect to the plans or

conduct, or supposed plans or conduct of any naval of military operations, or

with respect to any works or measures undertaken for or connected with, or

intended for the fortification of any place, or any other information relating

to the public defence, which might be useful to the enemy, shall be punished

by death or by imprisonment for not more than thirty years.

Section 3

Whoever, when the United States is at war, shall wilfully make or convey

false reports or false statements with intent to interfere with the operation

or success of the military or naval forces of the United States or to promote

the success of its enemies and whoever when the United States is at war,

shall wilfully cause or attempt to cause insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny,

refusal of duty, in the military or naval forces of the United States, or shall

wilfully obstruct the recruiting or enlistment service of the United States, to

the injury of the service or of the United States, shall be punished by a fine

of not more than $10,000 or imprisonment for not more than twenty years,

or both.

Section 4

If two or more persons conspire to violate the provisions of section two or

three of this title, and one or more of such persons does any act to effect the

object of the conspiracy, each of the parties to such conspiracy shall be

punished as in said sections provided in the case of the doing of the act the

accomplishment of which is the object of such conspiracy. Except as above

provided conspiracies to commit offences under this title shall be punished

as provided by section thirty-seven of the Act to codify, revise, and amend

the penal laws of the United States approved March fourth, nineteen

hundred and nine.

Section 5

Whoever harbours or conceals any person who he knows, or has reasonable

grounds to believe or suspect, has committed, or is about to commit, an

offence under this title shall be punished by a fine of not more than $10,000

or by imprisonment for not more than two years, or both.

Section 6

The President in time of war or in case of national emergency may by

proclamation designate any place other than those set forth in subsection:

(a) of section one hereof in which anything for the use of the Army or Navy

is being prepared or constructed or stored as a prohibited place for the

purpose of this title: Provided, That he shall determine that information with

respect thereto would be prejudicial to the national defence.

Section 7

Nothing contained in this title shall be deemed to limit the jurisdiction of the

general courts-martial, military commissions, or naval courts-martial under

sections thirteen hundred and forty-two, thirteen hundred and forty-three,

and sixteen hundred and twenty-four of the Revised Statutes as amended.

Section 8

The provisions of this title shall extend to all Territories, possessions, and

places subject to the jurisdiction of the United States whether or not

contiguous thereto, and offences under this title, when committed upon the

high seas or elsewhere within the admiralty and maritime jurisdiction of the

United States and outside the territorial limits thereof shall be punishable


Section 9

The Act entitles “An Act to prevent the disclosure of national defence

secrets,” approved March third, nineteen hundred and eleven, is hereby


Copyright 2012 Digital History

Fourteen Points

Digital History ID 3901


Annotation: On January 8, 1918, President Woodrow Wilson delivered his

Fourteen Points speech to a joint session of Congress that detailed his plan

for lasting peace after World War I. The speech was given 10 months before

Germany’s defeat.

The speech, however, became the foundation on which Germany based the

terms of their surrender at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. The terms of

the surrender were outlined in the Treaty of Versailles.

At the conference, Wilson promoted his Fourteen Points, with hopes that

they would be included in the treaty. The Fourteen Points outlined his plan

for lasting post-war peace. It also called for the creation of a League of

Nations, which the final agreement of the treaty did include. The United

States, however, never joined the League of Nations and they refused to

endorse the Treaty of Versailles.

Document: President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points (Delivered in Joint

Session, January 8, 1918)

Gentlemen of the Congress:

Once more, as repeatedly before, the spokesmen of the Central Empires

have indicated their desire to discuss the objects of the war and the possible

basis of a general peace. Parleys have been in progress at Brest-Litovsk

between Russian representatives and representatives of the Central Powers

to which the attention of all the belligerents have been invited for the

purpose of ascertaining whether it may be possible to extend these parleys

into a general conference with regard to terms of peace and settlement.

The Russian representatives presented not only a perfectly definite

statement of the principles upon which they would be willing to conclude

peace but also an equally definite program of the concrete application of

those principles. The representatives of the Central Powers, on their part ,

presented an outline of settlement which, if much less definite, seemed

susceptible of liberal interpretation until their specific program of practical

terms was added. That program proposed no concessions at all either to the

sovereignty of Russia or to the preferences of the populations with whose

fortunes it dealt, but meant, in a word, that the Central Empires were to

keep every foot of territory their armed forces had occupied — every

province, every city, every point of vantage — as a permanent addition to

their territories and their power.

It is a reasonable conjecture that the general principles of settlement which

they at first suggested originated with the more liberal statesmen of

Germany and Austria, the men who have begun to feel the force of their own

people’s thought and purpose, while the concrete terms of actual settlement

came from the military leaders who have no thought but to keep what they

have got. The negotiations have been broken off. The Russian

representatives were sincere and in earnest. They cannot entertain such

proposals of conquest and domination.

The whole incident is full of significances. It is also full of perplexity. With

whom are the Russian representatives dealing? For whom are the

representatives of the Central Empires speaking? Are they speaking for the

majorities of their respective parliaments or for the minority parties, that

military and imperialistic minority which has so far dominated their whole

policy and controlled the affairs of Turkey and of the Balkan states which

have felt obliged to become their associates in this war?

The Russian representatives have insisted, very justly, very wisely, and in

the true spirit of modern democracy, that the conferences they have been

holding with the Teutonic and Turkish statesmen should be held within open,

not closed, doors, and all the world has been audience, as was desired. To

whom have we been listening, then? To those who speak the spirit and

intention of the resolutions of the German Reichstag of the 9th of July last,

the spirit and intention of the Liberal leaders and parties of Germany, or to

those who resist and defy that spirit and intention and insist upon conquest

and subjugation? Or are we listening, in fact, to both, unreconciled and in

open and hopeless contradiction? These are very serious and pregnant

questions. Upon the answer to them depends the peace of the world.

But, whatever the results of the parleys at Brest-Litovsk, whatever the

confusions of counsel and of purpose in the utterances of the spokesmen of

the Central Empires, they have again attempted to acquaint the world with

their objects in the war and have again challenged their adversaries to say

what their objects are and what sort of settlement they would deem just and

satisfactory. There is no good reason why that challenge should not be

responded to, and responded to with the utmost candor. We did not wait for

it. Not once, but again and again, we have laid our whole thought and

purpose before the world, not in general terms only, but each time with

sufficient definition to make it clear what sort of definite terms of settlement

must necessarily spring out of them. Within the last week Mr. Lloyd George

has spoken with admirable candor and in admirable spirit for the people and

Government of Great Britain.

There is no confusion of counsel among the adversaries of the Central

Powers, no uncertainty of principle, no vagueness of detail. The only secrecy

of counsel, the only lack of fearless frankness, the only failure to make

definite statement of the objects of the war, lies with Germany and her

allies. The issues of life and death hang upon these definitions. No

statesman who has the least conception of his responsibility ought for a

moment to permit himself to continue this tragically and appalling

outpouring of blood and treasure unless he is sure beyond a peradventure

that the objects of the vital sacrifice are part and parcel of the very life of

Society and that the people for whom he speaks think them right and

imperative as he does.

There is, moreover, a voice calling for these definitions of principle and of

purpose which is, it seems to me, more thrilling and more compelling than

any of the many moving voices with which the troubled air of the world is

filled. It is the voice of the Russian people. They are prostrate and all but

hopeless, it would seem, before the grim power of Germany, which has

hitherto known no relenting and no pity. Their power, apparently, is

shattered. And yet their soul is not subservient. They will not yield either in

principle or in action. Their conception of what is right, of what is humane

and honorable for them to accept, has been stated with a frankness, a

largeness of view, a generosity of spirit, and a universal human sympathy

which must challenge the admiration of every friend of mankind; and they

have refused to compound their ideals or desert others that they themselves

may be safe.

They call to us to say what it is that we desire, in what, if in anything, our

purpose and our spirit differ from theirs; and I believe that the people of the

United States would wish me to respond, with utter simplicity and frankness.

Whether their present leaders believe it or not, it is our heartfelt desire and

hope that some way may be opened whereby we may be privileged to assist

the people of Russia to attain their utmost hope of liberty and ordered


It will be our wish and purpose that the processes of peace, when they are

begun, shall be absolutely open and that they shall involve and permit

henceforth no secret understandings of any kind. The day of conquest and

aggrandizement is gone by; so is also the day of secret covenants entered

into in the interest of particular governments and likely at some unlooked-

for moment to upset the peace of the world. It is this happy fact, now clear

to the view of every public man whose thoughts do not still linger in an age

that is dead and gone, which makes it possible for every nation whose

purposes are consistent with justice and the peace of the world to avow nor

or at any other time the objects it has in view.

We entered this war because violations of right had occurred which touched

us to the quick and made the life of our own people impossible unless they

were corrected and the world secure once for all against their recurrence.

What we demand in this war, therefore, is nothing peculiar to ourselves. It is

that the world be made fit and safe to live in; and particularly that it be

made safe for every peace-loving nation which, like our own, wishes to live

its own life, determine its own institutions, be assured of justice and fair

dealing by the other peoples of the world as against force and selfish

aggression. All the peoples of the world are in effect partners in this interest,

and for our own part we see very clearly that unless justice be done to

others it will not be done to us. The program of the world’s peace, therefore,

is our program; and that program, the only possible program, as we see it,

is this:

I. Open covenants of peace, openly arrived at, after which there shall be no

private international understandings of any kind but diplomacy shall proceed

always frankly and in the public view.

II. Absolute freedom of navigation upon the seas, outside territorial waters,

alike in peace and in war, except as the seas may be closed in whole or in

part by international action for the enforcement of international covenants.

III. The removal, so far as possible, of all economic barriers and the

establishment of an equality of trade conditions among all the nations

consenting to the peace and associating themselves for its maintenance.

IV. Adequate guarantees given and taken that national armaments will be

reduced to the lowest point consistent with domestic safety.

V. A free, open-minded, and absolutely impartial adjustment of all colonial

claims, based upon a strict observance of the principle that in determining

all such questions of sovereignty the interests of the populations concerned

must have equal weight with the equitable claims of the government whose

title is to be determined.

VI. The evacuation of all Russian territory and such a settlement of all

questions affecting Russia as will secure the best and freest cooperation of

the other nations of the world in obtaining for her an unhampered and

unembarrassed opportunity for the independent determination of her own

political development and national policy and assure her of a sincere

welcome into the society of free nations under institutions of her own

choosing; and, more than a welcome, assistance also of every kind that she

may need and may herself desire. The treatment accorded Russia by her

sister nations in the months to come will be the acid test of their good will,

of their comprehension of her needs as distinguished from their own

interests, and of their intelligent and unselfish sympathy.

VII. Belgium, the whole world will agree, must be evacuated and restored,

without any attempt to limit the sovereignty which she enjoys in common

with all other free nations. No other single act will serve as this will serve to

restore confidence among the nations in the laws which they have

themselves set and determined for the government of their relations with

one another. Without this healing act the whole structure and validity of

international law is forever impaired.

VIII. All French territory should be freed and the invaded portions restored,

and the wrong done to France by Prussia in 1871 in the matter of Alsace-

Lorraine, which has unsettled the peace of the world for nearly fifty years,

should be righted, in order that peace may once more be made secure in the

interest of all.

IX. A readjustment of the frontiers of Italy should be effected along clearly

recognizable lines of nationality.

X. The peoples of Austria-Hungary, whose place among the nations we wish

to see safeguarded and assured, should be accorded the freest opportunity

to autonomous development.

XI. Rumania, Serbia, and Montenegro should be evacuated; occupied

territories restored; Serbia accorded free and secure access to the sea; and

the relations of the several Balkan states to one another determined by

friendly counsel along historically established lines of allegiance and

nationality; and international guarantees of the political and economic

independence and territorial integrity of the several Balkan states should be

entered into.

XII. The Turkish portion of the present Ottoman Empire should be assured a

secure sovereignty, but the other nationalities which are now under Turkish

rule should be assured an undoubted security of life and an absolutely

unmolested opportunity of autonomous development, and the Dardanelles

should be permanently opened as a free passage to the ships and commerce

of all nations under international guarantees.

XIII. An independent Polish state should be erected which should include the

territories inhabited by indisputably Polish populations, which should be

assured a free and secure access to the sea, and whose political and

economic independence and territorial integrity should be guaranteed by

international covenant.

XIV. A general association of nations must be formed under specific

covenants for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political

independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike.

In regard to these essential rectifications of wrong and assertions of right we

feel ourselves to be intimate partners of all the governments and peoples

associated together against the Imperialists. We cannot be separated in

interest or divided in purpose. We stand together until the end. For such

arrangements and covenants we are willing to fight and to continue to fight

until they are achieved; but only because we wish the right to prevail and

desire a just and stable peace such as can be secured only by removing the

chief provocations to war, which this program does remove. We have no

jealousy of German greatness, and there is nothing in this program that

impairs it. We grudge her no achievement or distinction of learning or of

pacific enterprise such as have made her record very bright and very

enviable. We do not wish to injure her or to block in any way her legitimate

influence or power. We do not wish to fight her either with arms or with

hostile arrangements of trade if she is willing to associate herself with us and

the other peace- loving nations of the world in covenants of justice and law

and fair dealing. We wish her only to accept a place of equality among the

peoples of the world, — the new world in which we now live, — instead of a

place of mastery.

Neither do we presume to suggest to her any alteration or modification of

her institutions. But it is necessary, we must frankly say, and necessary as a

preliminary to any intelligent dealings with her on our part, that we should

know whom her spokesmen speak for when they speak to us, whether for

the Reichstag majority or for the military party and the men whose creed is

imperial domination.

We have spoken now, surely, in terms too concrete to admit of any further

doubt or question. An evident principle runs through the whole program I

have outlined. It is the principle of justice to all peoples and nationalities,

and their right to live on equal terms of liberty and safety with one another,

whether they be strong or weak.

Unless this principle be made its foundation no part of the structure of

international justice can stand. The people of the United States could act

upon no other principle; and to the vindication of this principle they are

ready to devote their lives, their honor, and everything they possess. The

moral climax of this the culminating and final war for human liberty has

come, and they are ready to put their own strength, their own highest

purpose, their own integrity and devotion to the test.

Copyright 2012 Digital History

The Versailles Treaty

Digital History ID 1159


Annotation: H.G. Wells called it “the war to end all wars.” But just two

decades after World War I concluded, a second world war erupted in Europe.

Ironically, the treaty that ended World War I helped plant the seeds for the

new conflict.

President Woodrow Wilson had called for a peace without victory, and in his

Fourteen Points, set out an idealistic framework for post-war peace. His call

for “self-determination” raised the hopes of many ethnic minorities. But at

the Paris Peace Conference, idealism collided with ignorance and national

self-interest and the resulting treaty was the product of a curious

combination of high ideals and cynical compromises. Wilson’s vision of a

strong international organization—a League of Nations—failed to win the

backing of the U.S. Senate and lacked the power to preserve the peace.

One of the major tasks facing the negotiators was determining what to do

about the Austro-Hungarian, German, and Ottoman Empires, as well as

China. The Versailles Conference redrew the map in ways that carried vast

consequences for the future. It placed large numbers of German speakers

outside of Germany. It created new countries containing a variety of

conflicting ethnic groups, including Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, as well as

Czechoslovakia, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Yugoslavia. And

it gave a portion of China to a Japan.

At the peace conference, the British Prime Minister Lloyd George warned his

fellow leaders: “You may strip Germany of her colonies, reduce her

armaments to a mere police force and her navy to that of a fifth-rate power;

all the same in the end if she feels that she has been unjustly treated in the

peace of 1919 she will find ways of exacting retribution from her

conquerors.” He was right. As a consequence of the treaty, Germany lost 13

percent of its territory and 10 percent of its population. A punitive peace

helped to bring about World War II. The onerous reparations imposed on

Germany, combined with the seizure of German territory and the

requirement that Germany accept guilt for causing the war, helped to create

the sense of grievance that would bring Adolf Hitler and the Nazis to power.

It is a haunting irony that in 1940, in the very rail car where the armistice

ending World War I was signed, Hitler abrogated the Versailles Peace Treaty.

Document: Article 22. Certain communities formerly belonging to the

Turkish Empire have reached a stage of development where their existence

as independent nations can be provisionally recognised subject to the

rendering of administrative advice and assistance by a Mandatory [i.e., a

Western power] until such time as they are able to stand alone. The wishes

of these communities must be a principal consideration in the selection of

the Mandatory.

Article 42. Germany is forbidden to maintain or construct any fortifications

either on the left bank of the Rhine or on the right bank to the west of a line

drawn 50 kilometres to the East of the Rhine.

Article 45. As compensation for the destruction of the coal mines in the north

of France and as part payment towards the total reparation due from

Germany for the damage resulting from the war, Germany cedes to France

in full and absolute possession, with exclusive right of exploitation,

unencumbered and free from all debts and charges of any kind, the coal

mines situated in the Saar Basin….

Article 49. Germany renounces in favor of the League of Nations, in the

capacity of trustee, the government of the territory defined above.

At the end of fifteen years from the coming into force of the present Treaty

the inhabitants of the said territory shall be called upon to indicate the

sovereignty under which they desire to be placed.

Alsace-Lorraine. The High Contracting Parties, recognizing the moral

obligation to redress the wrong done by Germany in 1871 both to the rights

of France and to the wishes of the population of Alsace and Lorraine, which

were separated from their country in spite of the solemn protest of their

representatives at the Assembly of Bordeaux, agree upon the following….

Article 51. The territories which were ceded to Germany in accordance with

the Preliminaries of Peace signed at Versailles on February 26, 1871, and the

Treaty of Frankfort of May 10, 1871, are restored to French sovereignty as

from the date of the Armistice of November 11, 1918.

The provisions of the Treaties establishing the delimitation of the frontiers

before 1871 shall be restored.

Article 119. Germany renounces in favor of the Principal Allied and

Associated Powers all her rights and titles over her overseas possessions.

Article 156. Germany renounces, in favour of Japan, all her rights, title and

privileges . . . which she acquired in virtue of` the Treaty concluded by her

with China on March 6, 1898, and of all other arrangements relative to the

Province of Shantung.

Article 159. The German military forces shall be demobilised and reduced as

prescribed hereinafter

Article 160. By a date which must not be later than March 31, 1920, the

German Army must not comprise more than seven divisions of infantry and

three divisions of cavalry.

After that date the total number of effectives in the Army of the States

constituting Germany must not exceed 100,000 men, including officers and

establishments of depots. The Army shall be devoted exclusively to the

maintenance of order within the territory and to the control of the frontiers.

The total effective strength of officers, including the personnel of staffs,

whatever their composition, must not exceed four thousand….

Article 231. The Allied and Associated Governments affirm and Germany

accepts the responsibility of Germany and her allies for causing all the loss

and damage to which the Allied and Associated Governments and their

nationals have been subjected as a consequence of the war imposed upon

them by the aggression of Germany and her allies.

Article 232. The Allied and Associated Governments recognize that the

resources of Germany are not adequate, after taking into account permanent

diminutions of such resources which will result from other provisions of the

present Treaty, to make complete reparation for all such loss and damage.

The Allied and Associated Governments, however, require, and Germany

undertakes, that she will make compensation for all damage done to the

civilian population of the Allied and Associated Powers and to their property

during the period of the belligerency of each as an Allied or Associated Power

against Germany.

Copyright 2012 Digital History

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