United States Adopts a Policy of "Armed Neutrality," Germans Sink 7,000 Vessels
Germany, with feverish speed, had been multiplying her fleets of submarines, with the secret intention of destroying the ships of all nations that sailed the seas. Especially the Huns hoped to isolate England from her sources of food supply and starve her into submission. On January 31, 1917, Count von Bernstorff, the German Ambassador to the United States, notified this Government that on the following day, February 1, 1917, Germany would inaugurate a new policy of unrestricted submarine warfare.
A zone had been drawn around the British Isles, also along the coast of France, and the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. One channel, leading through the Dardanelles to Constantinople, had been excepted. All enemy ships of any character that entered this zone, whether merchant marine, passenger, or battleships, and all neutral vessels suspected of carrying contraband goods, were to be sunk without warning.
There was to be no distinction made between the ships of enemy nations and those of neutrals. No assurance was given that innocent passengers and seamen on board these vessels would be rescued. Germany had reverted to the practice of black piracy, putting to the blush the classic operations of the Algerian and Spanish buccaneers.
United States Breaks with Germany
President Wilson, who had shown the Huns every consideration since the sinking of the Lusitania and the Sussex, at once took the suitable action which resulted in America's participation in the War. In a message to Congress, received on February 26, 1917, the President' proposed a policy of "armed neutrality," asking authority of Congress to arm American ships for defense, while expressing the hope that "it would not be necessary to put forces anywhere into action."
Twelve United States Senators, by their votes, prevented the passage of an act of authorization before Congress was prorogued on March 4, 1917. The P...