World War I anniversary (4-6-45)

The Pittsburgh Press (April 6, 1945)

Background of news –
World War I anniversary

By Bertram Benedict

Today, April 6, is the 28th anniversary of the entrance of the United States into World War I.

On April 6, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson signed the joint resolution of Congress formally declaring “the state of war between the United States and the Imperial German Government.” Thus, the United States did not declare war, but declared that Germany had, by its submarine attacks, previously opened war upon the United States.

And Congress declared that a state of war existed, not with “Germany,” but with the “Imperial German Government.” Thus, Congress was following the lead of Mr. Wilson in distinguishing between the German government and the German people. Four days before, Mr. Wilson had insisted:

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

Six senators opposed

The war resolution was passed by the Senate with six senators voting “No,” none of them from the East – Sens. Gronna (R-North Dakota), La Follette (R-Wisconsin), Lane (D-Oregon), Norris (R-Nebraska), Stone (D-Missouri), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Vardaman (D-Mississippi). None of the six is now alive.

The war resolution was passed by the House with 50 representatives voting “No,” including the House Majority Leader, Rep. Kitchen of North Carolina. Only one of the 50 was from the East, the lone Socialist – Meyer London of New York, Fifteen of the 50 were from Illinois and Wisconsin; 23, almost half, were from west of the Mississippi. One of the 50 is still in the House – Harold Knutson (R-Minnesota).

The only member of either house who voted against war in 1941 was Rep. Jeannette Rankin (R-Montana); the only woman member of the House in 1917, she had voted against war then also.

Wilson’s armistice message

One year, seven months and five days after Congress voted for war in 1917, President Wilson went before it with news of the Armistice. The outbreak of World War II 20 years later was to make a mockery of some of his words then:

The war thus comes to an end; for, having accepted these terms of an armistice, it will be impossible for the German command to renew it… The arbitrary power of the military caste of Germany which one could secretly and of its own choice disturb the peace of the world is discredited and destroyed.

But other words of Woodrow Wilson on November 11, 1918, are no less pertinent today than then:

With what governments, and of what sort, are we about to deal in the making of the covenants of peace? With what authority will they meet us, and with what assurance that their authority will abide and sustain securely the international arrangements into which we are about to enter? …Let us be perfectly frank with ourselves and admit that these questions cannot be satisfactorily answered now or at once.

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