Wednesday, January 31, 2018

January 1918

It's January 1918.  As a new year begins, President Wilson outlines his vision for a postwar world in an address to Congress.  His "Fourteen Points," which follow Prime Minister Lloyd George's statement of British war aims by only three days, are based on study and analysis conducted by a group of intellectuals called the "Inquiry," a precursor of the Council on Foreign Relations.  The Bolsheviks walk away from the talks at Brest-Litovsk, but the reality of Russia's military situation forces them to return.  Workers demanding an end to the war go on strike in Austria-Hungary and Germany.  The popularly elected Russian Constituent Assembly holds its first and only session before being shut down the next day by the Red Guards.  In the Mediterranean, the Ottoman Navy loses the two German cruisers it gained in the early days of the war.  In the United States, the government curtails manufacturing industries to conserve fuel.  The House of Representatives approves a woman suffrage amendment to the Constitution.  Americans enjoy music by Jerome Kern and George M. Cohan.

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President Wilson Outlining His "Fourteen Points" to Congress

When the Senate and the House of Representatives convened Tuesday morning, January 8, they learned that Speaker Clark and Vice President Marshall had just been notified that President Wilson wished to address the two houses in a joint session at noon that day. After a resolution calling a joint session was hastily introduced and adopted, the Senators left their chamber and proceeded through the Capitol to the House wing.  At noon the President entered the House chamber and mounted to the podium to deliver one of the most important statements of his presidency, setting forth America's objectives in the World War.

The reason for the urgency was that the President considered it important to make a strong warning to the new government of Russia of the serious dangers to which Russia is exposed in the Brest-Litovsk negotiations, and to assure the Russians of American support.  The President began his address, therefore, by aligning the United States firmly behind Russia in its rejection of the Central Powers' demands.  He referred to the contradictory messages from the German negotiators, saying that although "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," their "specific program of practical terms" presented at Brest-Litovsk "proposed no concessions at all, either to the sovereignty of Russia or to the preferences of the population 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 . . . as a permanent addition to their territories and their power."  Therefore "the negotiations have been broken off.  The Russian representatives were sincere and in earnest.  They cannot entertain such proposals of conquest and domination."

The President asked "for whom are the representatives of the Central Empires speaking?"  Are they speaking for "the majorities of their respective parliaments" or for "that military and imperialistic minority which has so far dominated their whole policy?"  Despite the contradictions in their own statements, the Central Powers "have again challenged their adversaries to say what their objects are and what sort of settlement they would deem just and satisfactory."  The President said "there is no good reason why that challenge should not be responded to," although, unlike the Central Powers themselves,"there is no confusion of counsel ..., no uncertainty of principle, no vagueness of detail" among their adversaries.  "No statesman who has the least conception of his responsibility," he declared, "ought for a moment to permit himself to continue this tragical 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."

The people of Russia also deserve a clear statement of war aims.  "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 peace."  The voice of the Russian people is "more thrilling and compelling than any of the many moving voices with which the troubled air of the world is filled.  [They] call us to say what it is that we desire, . . .  and I believe the people of the United States would wish me to respond with utter simplicity and frankness."  He is able to do so, he said, because "the day of conquest and aggrandizement is gone by [and] so also is the day of secret covenants."  It is now "possible for every nation whose purposes are consistent with justice and the peace of the world to avow . . . the objects it has in view."

President Wilson then laid out his "program for the world's peace," which he set forth in fourteen numbered points:

"I.  Open covenants of peace, openly arrived at . . ..

"II.  Absolute freedom of navigation upon the seas . . ..

"III.  The removal, so far as possible, of all economic barriers and the establishment of an equality of trade conditions . . ..

"IV.  Adequate guarantees . . . that national armaments will reduce to the lowest point consistent with domestic safety.

"V.  Free, open-minded, and absolutely impartial adjustment of all colonial claims . . . [giving equal weight to] the interests of the populations concerned . . ..

"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 . . ..

"VII.  Belgium . . . must be evacuated and restored.

"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 . . . should be righted . . ..

"IX.  A readjustment of the frontiers of Italy should be effected along clearly recognizable lines of nationality.

"X.  The peoples of Austria-Hungary . . . should be accorded the freest opportunity of autonomous development.

"XI.  Rumania, Serbia, and Montenegro should be evacuated . . . and international guarantees of the political and economic independence and territorial integrity of the several Balkan states should be entered into.

"XII.  The Turkish portions 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 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 . . ..

"XIII.  An independent Polish state should be erected . . . [with] free and secure access to the sea . . ..

"XIV.  A general association of nations must be formed . . . affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike."

The President's statement, which one official described as "an outline of war aims, not a peace address," was praised by members of both parties.  The only criticism has come from some Republicans who have expressed concern that the proposed establishment of free trade as a basis for international commerce might commit the United States to allowing other nations, including Germany, to dump their products in American ports in competition with American businesses.



 Dr. Sidney Mezes


Walter Lippmann

The fourteen points presented to Congress grew from work done by a group of academics and experts called the "Inquiry."  The Inquiry was assembled beginning in September by Colonel House at the request of President Wilson to collect and analyze data on geographical, ethnological, historical, economic and political issues in Europe and throughout the world in preparation for the peace conference likely to follow the war.  To direct the Inquiry, House chose his wife's brother-in-law Dr. Sidney Mezes, the president of the City College of New York and former president of the University of Texas.  Dr. Mezes's secretary and the Inquiry's head of research is Walter Lippmann, an assistant to Secretary of War Newton Baker and co-founder of the New Republic Magazine.  After Colonel House returned last month from his conference with the Allied leaders in Europe, in which he tried to persuade them to formulate an agreed statement of war aims, President Wilson decided to make his own statement and requested a memorandum from the Inquiry.   Shortly before Christmas Colonel House delivered a hastily prepared memorandum, which was followed on January 4 by a revised and expanded version.  That day and the next the President discussed the memorandum with House, making notes on it in shorthand; then he sat at his typewriter and condensed the principal themes into fourteen points and asked House to arrange them in the order he thought best.  House placed the general terms first and ended with those dealing with specific territorial questions.  Wilson agreed with one exception: he moved the "general association of nations" point to the end.  On Sunday, January 6, he secluded himself in his study and used the marked-up memorandum to draft the fourteen points address, first in shorthand and then on his typewriter.



 Prime Minister David Lloyd George

On Saturday, January 5, while they were reviewing the Inquiry's memorandum and preparing the President's address to Congress, President Wilson and Colonel House received word that British Prime Minister David Lloyd George had made a major speech to the Trades Union Congress at Central Hall, Westminster, in which he had laid out Britain's war aims.  Those aims, he said, did not include the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but did include the achievement of a peace based on "consent of the governed," which he called "self-determination."  The President was afraid Lloyd George had pre-empted what he had to say, but Colonel House persuaded him that his own speech, which was more comprehensive, would have far more impact.  When he prepared the final draft of his address the next day, Wilson included an acknowledgement of the Prime Minister's statement, saying "Within the last week Mr. Lloyd George has spoken with admirable candor and in admirable spirit for the people and government of Great Britain."

Two days after President Wilson's "fourteen points" address to Congress, British Foreign Minister Arthur Balfour gave a speech in Edinburgh in which he said Britain "never went into the war for selfish objects; we did not stay in the war for selfish objects; and we are not going to fight the war to a finish for selfish objects." He warned, however, that the horrors of war, tragic as they are, are nothing compared to those of a "German peace."


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 Central Powers Delegates at Brest-Litovsk (left to right: General Hoffman, Austro-Hungarian Foreign Minister Count Czernin, Grand Vizier Talaat Pasha, German Foreign Minister von Kuhlman)

At Brest-Litovsk, the joint Christmas Day declaration in favor of a peace of "self-determination, no annexations and no indemnities" gave rise to momentary optimism on the part of the Russian negotiators that agreement could be quickly reached.  Revelation of the details of the parties' understanding of those principles, however, led to a face-off that has continued into the new year.  As President Wilson noted in his address to Congress on January 8, the Russian negotiators withdrew from the talks when it became apparent that the German interpretation of the declaration did not mean it was prepared to agree to a return to the pre-war status quo.  The Russians did not stay away long, however.  Even as President Wilson was congratulating the Russians on their firmness, their lead negotiator Leon Trotsky was returning to the negotiating table, recognizing that Russia would be unable to resist if the German Army mounted a determined offensive.  On January 12, General Max Hoffmann, the leading spokesman for an aggressive German strategy, got into a political argument with Trotsky, accusing the Bolshevik regime of being "based purely on violence, ruthlessly suppressing all who think differently."  Rather than deny the accusation, Trotsky embraced it, saying "The general is completely right when he says our government is founded on power.  All history has known only such governments.  So long as society consists of warring classes the power of the government will rest on strength and will assert its domination through force."

While the military situation on the Eastern Front is encouraging for the Central Powers and dire for Russia, that is not the only incentive at work in Brest-Litovsk.  Just as it is in the interest of the Allies to keep Russia in the war, it is in Germany's interest to get Russia out as quickly as possible so it can concentrate its effort on the Western Front.  The political turmoil in Russia, meanwhile, has opened the door to independence movements throughout the empire.  Many of the provinces of Tsarist Russia, including Poland, Ukraine, and the Baltic provinces of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, have little or no sympathy for the Bolshevik regime, and are moving toward declaring their independence and entering into separate understandings with the Central Powers.

Political unrest is not confined to Russia.  Austria-Hungary is on the brink of starvation.  Reflecting bitter disappointment following collapse of the hopes raised by the Christmas Day declaration, widespread strikes swept Vienna on January 14.  In Germany, strikes began in Berlin on January 28 and spread quickly to other cities.  The political pressure from civilian workers and the Reichstag majority to achieve a peace settlement is matched by the determination of the German military to reap the benefits of their recent military success.

The Bolsheviks now in control in Russia have no reason to help the Allies, but they are unwilling to sacrifice vast territory and population to German control.  Russia's military situation, however, offers little in the way of leverage.  Trotsky's strategy at the moment appears to be to keep the talks going while pursuing his Marxist goal of a worldwide revolution of the proletariat.  The strikes in Berlin and Vienna are providing some encouragement for that strategy.



The Constituent Assembly

The Provisional Government that took power in Russia following the Tsar's abdication in March was so named because it was designed to remain in power only until elections could be held and a permanent government, to be called the Constituent Assembly, could be formed.  Nationwide elections on the basis of universal suffrage were originally scheduled for September but were postponed until November 25, by which time Lenin's Bolsheviks had driven the Provisional Government from power and gained control of the government buildings and streets of Petrograd.  Because of the popular support for the elections, the first in Russian history, the Bolsheviks allowed them to go ahead, but to the Bolsheviks' dismay the result was a convincing victory for the Socialist Revolutionaries, with the Bolsheviks coming in a distant second.


 Victor Chernov

When it became apparent that the Bolsheviks would not control the Constituent Assembly, Lenin denounced it as a betrayal of the revolution.  Prior to its meeting on January 18, supporters of the Assembly marching toward the Tauride Palace where it was to be held were shot at and driven from the streets by armed Bolsheviks.  Dozens of demonstrators were killed.  During the Assembly, which began at 4:00 P.M., Red Guards trained cannons on the building and the Bolshevik minority inside the hall made raucous attempts to interrupt the proceedings as Lenin watched from the balcony.  The Socialist Revolutionary majority, made up of many of the leaders of the February (O.S.) Revolution that overthrew the tsar, proceeded to conduct business, electing Victor Chernov president.  The Assembly adjourned in the early morning hours after enacting an egalitarian land law and proclaiming the birth of the "Russian Democratic Republic."  When the delegates returned the following afternoon, they found the doors locked and barricaded by the Bolsheviks.  Russia's experiment with representative government had lasted less than twenty-four hours.


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S.M.S. Goeben Aground at the Dardanelles

Shortly after the outbreak of war between Great Britain and Germany in August 1914, the German cruisers SMS Goeben and SMS Breslau were pursued by Royal Navy forces in the Mediterranean and escaped into the Dardanelles, where they were taken with their officers and crews into the Turkish Navy and renamed Jawus Sultan Selim and Midilli (see the August 1914 installment of this blog).  They remained in the Black Sea until this month, when they ventured back into the Mediterranean to support Ottoman operations in Palestine.  In the ensuing Battle of Imbros, they attacked and sank two British monitors, but as they were attempting to return to the Dardanelles they struck mines that sank the Midilli (Breslau) and forced the Jawus Sultan Selim (Goeben) onto the  beach.


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Fuel Administrator Garfield

The Federal Fuel Administration was created by executive order last August to address concerns about shortages of coal and oil caused by the unusually harsh winter, railroad congestion, and the demands of American participation in the World War.  Harry A. Garfield was appointed Administrator.  On January 16, with President Wilson's approval, Garfield issued an order directing all industries east of the Mississippi River to suspend operation for five days beginning Friday, January 18, and to shut down operations thereafter every Monday from January 28 to March 25.  The order, issued without any advance notice or discussion, took the country by surprise.  In response to widespread protests, the Senate adopted a resolution calling for the Fuel Administrator to postpone the effective date of the order

In a statement issued January 18.  President Wilson said he had been "of course, consulted by Mr. Garfield" and "fully agreed with him."  He said "sacrifices of the sort called for by this order are infinitely less than sacrifices of life that might otherwise be involved.  It is absolutely necessary to get the ships away, it is absolutely necessary to relieve the congestion at the ports and upon the railways, it is absolutely necessary to move great quantities of food, and it is absolutely necessary that our people should be warmed in their homes, if nowhere else, and halfway measures would not have accomplished the desired ends."



Suffragists March for Woman Suffrage

During his 1916 campaign for reelection, President Wilson announced his support for woman suffrage but insisted, along with most of his Southern Democrat supporters, that it was an issue to be resolved by individual states.  He voted for woman suffrage in New Jersey, but disagreed with his Republican opponent, Charles Evans Hughes, who advocated a Constitutional amendment granting nationwide woman suffrage.  Despite Wilson's narrow victory, the issue has not gone away, and a proposed Constitutional amendment, which supporters called "the Susan B. Anthony resolution," came up for a vote in the House of Representatives on January 10.  The day before the vote the President announced that he had changed his opinion and now supported amending the Constitution.  Many Democrats, however, refused to follow his lead, arguing that it violated the party's platform.  After a five-hour debate, the House adopted the resolution by a vote of 274-136, meeting the two-thirds requirement with no votes to spare.  Two members, Representative Thetus W. Sims (Dem., Tenn.) and the minority leader James R. Mann (Rep., Ill.), rose from sick beds to vote for the
resolution, and the vote in favor cast by Representative Joseph J. Russell (Dem., Mo.) was counted only after a hard fight led by Representative Edward W. Saunders (Dem., Va.), the leader of the opposition, to disqualify it on the ground that Russell had not been present in the chamber when the voting began.  Champ Clark (Dem., Mo.) is known to favor the amendment, but as Speaker of the House did not vote.  The proposed amendment now heads for the Senate, where it faces challenges at least as formidable as those it faced in the House.

Well ahead of woman suffrage in the pipeline is the proposed Constitutional amendment prohibiting the "manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors," which was approved by Congress and submitted to the states last month.  On January 8 Mississippi became the first state to ratify what will be, if adopted, the eighteenth amendment.  By month's end, four more states had followed suit.


 Representative Rankin

During the vote on  the woman suffrage amendment the galleries were filled to capacity with supporters, many of them women, whose increasing concern was palpable as one Democrat after another refused to follow their president's lead.  In contrast to the galleries, only two women were on the floor of the House chamber.  One was the clerk of the House Suffrage Committee, who sat next to Representative John Raker (Dem., Calif.), the committee's chairman.  The other was Representative Jeannette Rankin (Rep., Mont.), the only female member of Congress, who led the fight for the Republican supporters of the amendment.  When the resolution was introduced Mr. Raker was standing before the Speaker's desk ready to begin the debate when Representative Joseph Walsh (Rep., Mass.) stood and asked whether "it would seriously interfere with [Mr. Raker's] plans if Miss Rankin should open the debate."  Raker stepped aside and allowed Miss Rankin to deliver what proved to be the longest and most impassioned speech of the day in favor of the resolution.  She told her fellow congressmen "We are facing a question of political evolution," and although "we are mobilizing all our resources for the ideals of democracy [in the World War], . . . something is still lacking in the completeness of our national effort."  She declared that "today as never before the nation needs its women -- needs the work of their hands and their hearts and their minds."  Miss Rankin challenged the Congress to live up to its "protestations of democracy," asking "How can we explain if the same Congress that voted for war to make the world safe for democracy refuses to give this small measure of democracy to the women of our country?"


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One of 1917's most successful Broadway shows is "Oh, Boy!," a musical comedy with music by Jerome Kern and lyrics by Guy Bolton and P.G. Wodehouse.  It opened in February and is still being performed in the new year.  The most popular song in the play is "Till the Clouds Roll By," performed by Anna Wheaton and James Harrod (click to play):

Anna Wheaton

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Nora Bayes

With America's entry into the World War, patriotic songs have enjoyed a surge of popularity.  The most popular is "Over There," written by George M. Cohan and performed by several artists, including Enrico Caruso and Billy Murray.  Leading the charts at year's end is this recording by Nora Bayes (click to play):




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January 1918 – Selected Sources and Recommended Reading

Contemporary Periodicals:
American Review of Reviews, February and March 1918
New York Times, January and February 1918

Books and Articles:

A. Scott Berg, Wilson
Britain at War Magazine, The Fourth Year of the Great War: 1917
Winston S. Churchill, The World Crisis 1911-1918
John Milton Cooper, Jr., Woodrow Wilson: A Biography
John Milton Cooper, Jr., The Warrior and the Priest: Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt
John Dos Passos, Mr. Wilson's War
David Fromkin, A Peace to End All Peace: Creating the Modern Middle East, 1914-1922
Martin Gilbert, Churchill: A Life
Martin Gilbert, The First World War: A Complete History
Martin Gilbert, A History of the Twentieth Century, Volume One: 1900-1933
Martin Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill Volume IV: The Stricken World 1916-1922
Ann Hagedorn, Savage Peace, Hope and Fear in America, 1919
August Heckscher, Woodrow Wilson: A Biography
Godfrey Hodgson, Woodrow Wilson's Right Hand: The Life of Colonel Edward M. House
Roy Jenkins, Churchill: A Biography
John Keegan, The First World War
David M. Kennedy, Over Here: The First World War and American Society
Ian Kershaw, To Hell and Back: Europe 1914-1949 
Arthur S. Link, Woodrow Wilson and the Progressive Era, 1910-1917
Robert K. Massie, Nicholas and Alexandra
G.J. Meyer, A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, 1914 to 1918
G.J. Meyer, The World Remade: America in World War I
Michael S. Neiberg, The Path to War: How the First World War Created Modern America
Jonathan Schneer, The Balfour Declaration: The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict
J. Lee Thompson, Never Call Retreat: Theodore Roosevelt and the Great War
Adam Tooze, The Deluge: The Great War, America and the Remaking of the Global Order, 1916-1931
Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns, The Roosevelts: An Intimate History
The West Point Atlas of War: World War I

Sunday, December 31, 2017

December 1917



One of the most consequential years in world history, highlighted by the Communist revolution in Russia and the United States' entry into the World War, has come to an end.  In December 1917 the Bolsheviks, having driven the Provisional Government from power, occupy Russian Army headquarters and murder the Army's former commander-in-chief.  An armistice is declared on the Eastern Front and negotiations begin for a permanent peace treaty between the new Russian government and the Central Powers.  The announced goal of the talks is a peace on the basis of no annexations and a withdrawal of occupying forces, but the difficulty of achieving that goal in practice becomes apparent when the two sides present their proposals.  In Palestine, a British Army commanded by General Edmund Allenby occupies Jerusalem.  On the Western Front the British stall German counterattacks at Cambrai and dig into defensive positions for the winter; Italian forces, aided by British reinforcements, turn back the Austrians on the Asiago Plateau.  Ships collide in Halifax harbor, causing a fire and a massive explosion that kills thousands.  An American destroyer is torpedoed and sunk by a German submarine.  The United States declares war on Austria-Hungary.  Colonel House returns from Paris where he has been meeting with the Allies.  President Wilson, using his war powers, takes control of the nation’s railroads.  The House of Representatives joins the Senate in approving a prohibition amendment to the Constitution.


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 General Dukhonin

Bolshevik troops led by Ensign Nikolai Krylenko, who replaced General Nikolai Dukhonin as commander-in-chief of the Russian Army last month, entered Mogilev on December 1 and seized the Russian military headquarters.  Two days later, as he was attempting to depart for Petrograd, General Dukhonin was dragged from his train and beaten to death by a mob of Bolshevik sailors.  General Lavr Kornilov, whose attempted right-wing coup earlier this year ended in failure, escaped Mogilev the day before the Bolsheviks took over.  A statement issued by Krylenko on December 4 announced that the Army headquarters had been occupied without fighting, and that as a result "the last obstacle to the cause of peace" had fallen.  He said he regretted "the sad act of lynch law practiced upon the former highest commander-in-chief, General Dukhonin," which was the result of  "popular hatred [that] surpassed the limits of reason" caused by "the flight of General Kornilov the day before."


Representatives of Russia and the Central Powers at Brest-Litovsk

Representatives of Russia's new Bolshevik government are in Brest-Litovsk, a city behind German lines at the confluence of the Bug and Mukhavetz Rivers in western Belorussia, where they are meeting with representatives of the German, Austro-Hungarian, Bulgarian and Turkish governments.  On December 15 the parties agreed on an armistice extending to all the land, air and naval forces on their common fronts.  The armistice will remain in effect until January 14, after which it will continue automatically unless seven days notice is given.   Negotiations for a permanent peace treaty began on December 22.  The negotiators have agreed on a series of important points, including liberation of war prisoners and resumption of diplomatic and commercial relations.  The question of the disposition of occupied territories, however, has been more difficult.  Both sides invoke the principle of no annexations, and both sides offer to withdraw from occupied territory, but their views of how that is to be accomplished differ markedly.  Russia proposes to "withdraw her troops from all parts of Austria, Hungary, Turkey and Persia occupied by her, while the powers of the Quadruple Alliance will withdraw theirs from Poland."  Then an opportunity will be given for "all peoples living in Russia" to decide "entirely and freely the question of their union with one or the other empire, or their formation into independent states."  Invoking the same principle, Germany has made a very different proposal.  She offers "as soon as peace is concluded with Russia and the demobilization of the Russian Armies has been accomplished to evacuate her present positions in occupied Russian territory" but asserts that peace can be achieved only upon the basis of "a full state of independence and separation from the Russian Empire for Poland, Lithuania, Courland, and portions of Estonia and Livonia."  Russia has replied that "only such manifestation of will can be regarded as a de facto expression of the will of the people as results from a free vote taken in the districts in question, with the complete absence of foreign troops."  At year's end negotiations are at an impasse.



 General Allenby Entering Jerusalem

The British Army in Palestine, after capturing Beersheba, advanced through Gaza and surrounded Jerusalem.  On December 9 the Turks surrendered the city, and two days later the British commander General Edmund Allenby entered the Old City through the Jaffa Gate.  In order to avoid any appearance of triumphalism, and to show respect for the City's holy places, he entered on foot rather than horseback.  No Allied flags were allowed to be flown over the City, and Muslim soldiers from India were assigned to guard the Dome of the Rock.


Asiago

On the Western Front, the British push toward Cambrai, which began last month with a successful attack spearheaded by "tanks," has bogged down.  German counterattacks have regained much of the ground lost in the early days of the battle, and on December 2 Field Marshal Haig directed a withdrawal to secure defensive positions for the winter.  At year's end, German counterattacks were continuing with mixed results.  On the Italian Front, British troops transferred form France have aided the Italians in turning back the Austro-German advance on the Asiago Plateau.



 Halifax Harbor After the Explosion

On December 6, the SS Mont Blanc, a freighter loaded with munitions en route from New York to France, was entering the harbor at Halifax, Nova Scotia to join a transatlantic convoy when it collided with a departing steamship.  The ensuing fire and explosion destroyed or damaged every building in the city, killed 2,000 people and injured over 9,000.  Rescue efforts were hampered by a fierce blizzard that struck Halifax the day after the explosion.




U.S.S. Jacob Jones (DD-61)

For the first time in the war, the United States Navy has lost a warship to enemy action.  On December 6, the U.S.S. Jacob Jones (DD-61) was en route independently from Brest to Queenstown after participating in the escort of a transatlantic convoy when she was torpedoed and sunk by a German submarine near the Isles of Scilly.  Sixty-six officers and men of her 107-man crew were lost.
 


 Meyer London

The 65th Congress convened on Monday, December 3 for its regular session.  The next day President Wilson journeyed to the Capitol to deliver his annual State of the Union message.  Many Congressmen had been calling for a declaration of war against Germany's allies Austria-Hungary, Turkey and Bulgaria, but no one knew when the President began speaking what the President would ask Congress to do.  For most of his address, he called for a concentrated effort in the war against Germany.  He told Congress that "our immediate task is to win the war, and nothing shall turn us aside until it is accomplished" and that "those who desire to bring peace about before that purpose is achieved I counsel to carry their advice elsewhere.  We will not entertain it."  He said "we shall regard the war as won only when the German people say to us, through properly accredited representatives, that they are ready to agree to a settlement based on justice and the reparation of the wrongs their rulers have done,"   Among those wrongs are "a wrong to Belgium, which must be repaired," and "establish[ing] a power over other lands and peoples than their own -- over the great empire of Austria-Hungary, over hitherto free Balkan States, over Turkey, and within Asia -- which must be relinquished."  The President was more than half way through his speech before he addressed the question of adding to the nation's list of enemies.  In pursuing the goal of pushing "this great war of freedom and justice to its righteous conclusion," he cited "one very embarrassing obstacle that stands in our way."  That is "that we are at war with Germany, but not with her allies."  He therefore recommended "very earnestly" that Congress declare war against Austria-Hungary because that nation is "not her own mistress, but simply the vassal of the German government."  He acknowledged that "the same logic would lead also to a declaration of war against Turkey and Bulgaria," but said that although those nations "also are the tools of Germany, . . . they are mere tools and do not yet stand in the direct path of our necessary action."

The war resolution submitted to Congress, which did not include Turkey and Bulgaria, passed both houses of Congress on December 7 with only one dissenting vote.  The single no vote was cast by Representative Meyer London of New York, the only Socialist member of Congress, who explained that "as a Socialist, I am pledged to vote against a declaration of war.  In matters of war I am a  teetotaler.  I refuse to take the first intoxicating drink."  Senator Robert LaFollette, who was a vocal opponent of the war with Germany in April, was absent from the chamber and later claimed he had not heard the bell announcing the roll call.  Representative Jeannette Rankin, another no vote in April, voted for the resolution.  She said "I still believe that war is a stupid and futile way of attempting to settle international difficulties," but "the vote that we are now to cast is not on the declaration of war. . . . This is merely a vote on a technicality in the prosecution of the war already declared.  I shall vote for this, as I voted for money and men."



Colonel House With President Wilson

President Wilson's close advisor "Colonel" Edward M. House returned on December 15 from Paris, where he represented the United States at a meeting of the Inter-Allied Supreme War Council.  Upon his return he issued a statement to the press proclaiming his mission "a great success."  He told the reporters meeting his ship that before the conference the efforts of the Allies were "not focused," but that "they are working together now, and the promises are that they will continue to do so."  Asked about peace prospects and war aims, he said "I didn't talk peace with a soul in Europe.  I didn't discuss war aims. ...  As for peace, perhaps what was accomplished was a great peace step, because it was a step toward winning the war. ... Please don't let anyone get the idea that we discussed peace."  Three days later in a meeting at the White House he was more forthcoming, telling President Wilson that he had tried without success to persuade the Allies to join in a broad declaration of war aims that would unite the world against Germany.  The President is now considering making such a declaration on his own.



 Secretary McAdoo

When Congress passed the Army Appropriations Act in August 1916, it included the following language: "The president, in time of war, is empowered, through the Secretary of War, to take possession and assume control of any system or systems of transportation, or any part thereof, and to utilize the same, to the exclusion as far as may be necessary of all other traffic thereon, for the transfer or transportation of troops, war material, and equipment, or for such other purposes connected with the emergency as may be useful or desirable."  Now that the United States has entered a "time of war," the President has decided to exercise that power.  On December 26, using "powers ... granted me by the act of Congress of August 1916," he announced his decision to take control of the nation's railroads in an attempt to deal with the critical problem of increasing railroad congestion.  As required by the legislation, the action was taken "through the Secretary of War," but the President delegated actual control of the railroads to Secretary of the Treasury William G. McAdoo.  At noon on Friday, December 28, all 257,000 miles of the nation's railroads passed into government control as McAdoo became Director General of Railroads with authority to direct and finance the country's transportation facilities for the duration of the war.  On December 29 he completed the process of unifying the railroads into a national system of transportation when he issued an order directing that "all transportation systems covered by [the President's December 26] proclamation and order shall be operated as a national system of transportation, the common and national needs being in all instances held paramount to any actual or supposed corporate advantage.  All terminals, ports, locomotives, rolling stock, and other transportation facilities are to be fully utilized to carry out this purpose."  Among other things, the order ended the Pennsylvania Railroad's exclusive right to the use of the huge Pennsylvania terminal station in New York City and the tubes under the Hudson River leading into it.  Those facilities are now available to all carriers.

On December 31 Secretary McAdoo addressed a critical coal shortage in the northeast by ordering that coal be given priority over passengers and freight on the nation's railroads.  One of the major causes of the shortage is the back-up of unloaded coal cars at the New Jersey terminals on the Hudson River.  After conferring with Fuel Administrator Harry A. Garfield, McAdoo asked New York City Mayor-elect Hylan, who will assume office on New Year's Day, to detail as many city employees as possible to help get the cars unloaded, and he is working with Edward N. Hurley, Chairman of the Shipping Board, to increase the number of ships available to carry the coal to New England.



 Senator Sheppard

The campaign to make America dry passed a major milestone this month.  A proposed amendment to the Constitution prohibiting the "manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within the United States," which was passed by the Senate in August, was approved by the House of Representatives on December17.  The Senate, which is dominated by rural interests, has historically been more receptive to the dry forces than the House, which represents a more urban and ethnically diverse constituency, including a number of recent immigrants from Germany, Ireland and Italy.  The next day the Senate agreed to minor changes made by the House and the proposed amendment was submitted to the states for ratification.  It includes a provision, never before included in proposed amendments to the Constitution, that it will be inoperative unless it is ratified by the necessary three-fourths of the states within seven years.


Representative Hobson

In 1914 an earlier version of the prohibition amendment was passed by the Senate but fell short in the House.  That vote, however, was encouraging to the dry forces because for the first time a majority (though less than the necessary two-thirds) of representatives had voted for the amendment.  The sponsor of the amendment that year was Representative Richmond P. Hobson (Dem., Ala.).  His advocacy for prohibition was popular in his home state, but his racial views found less favor, especially outside his Birmingham congressional district.  A former naval officer, he had introduced legislation to allow residents of Porto Rico and the Philippines to apply for admission to West Point and Annapolis, and other legislation to make it unlawful to discriminate against Negro soldiers and sailors in uniform in the District of Columbia.  Also undermining his support among the white voters of Alabama was his criticism of President Roosevelt's dishonorable discharges of Negro soldiers following racial unrest in Brownsville, Texas in 1906.  In 1914, he left his House seat to run for an open Senate seat, but lost the Democratic primary (the only competitive race in Alabama) to Representative Oscar W. Underwood, the House majority leader.  With Hobson's departure from Congress, leadership of the dry forces passed to Senator Sheppard.


*****


December 1917 – Selected Sources and Recommended Reading

Contemporary Periodicals:
American Review of Reviews, January and February 1918
New York Times, December 1917 and January 1918

Books and Articles:

A. Scott Berg, Wilson
Britain at War Magazine, The Fourth Year of the Great War: 1917
Winston S. Churchill, The World Crisis 1911-1918
John Milton Cooper, Jr., Woodrow Wilson: A Biography
John Milton Cooper, Jr., The Warrior and the Priest: Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt
John Dos Passos, Mr. Wilson's War
David Fromkin, A Peace to End All Peace: Creating the Modern Middle East, 1914-1922
Martin Gilbert, Churchill: A Life
Martin Gilbert, The First World War: A Complete History
Martin Gilbert, A History of the Twentieth Century, Volume One: 1900-1933
Martin Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill Volume IV: The Stricken World 1916-1922
Ann Hagedorn, Savage Peace, Hope and Fear in America, 1919
August Heckscher, Woodrow Wilson: A Biography
Godfrey Hodgson, Woodrow Wilson's Right Hand: The Life of Colonel Edward M. House
Roy Jenkins, Churchill: A Biography
John Keegan, The First World War
David M. Kennedy, Over Here: The First World War and American Society
Ian Kershaw, To Hell and Back: Europe 1914-1949 
Arthur S. Link, Woodrow Wilson and the Progressive Era, 1910-1917
Robert K. Massie, Nicholas and Alexandra
G.J. Meyer, A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, 1914 to 1918
G.J. Meyer, The World Remade: America in World War I
Michael S. Neiberg, The Path to War: How the First World War Created Modern America
Jonathan Schneer, The Balfour Declaration: The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict
J. Lee Thompson, Never Call Retreat: Theodore Roosevelt and the Great War
Adam Tooze, The Deluge: The Great War, America and the Remaking of the Global Order, 1916-1931
Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns, The Roosevelts: An Intimate History
The West Point Atlas of War: World War I

Thursday, November 30, 2017

November 1917

In November 1917 British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour issues a declaration stating the British Government’s support for “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”  The Bolsheviks seize power in Russia and proclaim to the world that the new government intends to negotiate an “immediate democratic peace.”  Prime Minister Kerensky escapes Petrograd and rallies the Army in an attempt to retake control, but is defeated and goes into hiding.  Trotsky publishes the text of confidential diplomatic communications and secret treaties with foreign governments discovered in the Russian Foreign Office.  Armistice negotiations between Russia and Germany begin.  On the Western Front, the battle of Passchendaele comes to an end after weeks of intense combat and high casualties on both sides.  The British Army launches a surprise tank attack at Cambrai; initial gains are lost in German counterattacks.  Allied leaders meet in Rapallo to coordinate strategy.  French Prime Minister Painleve is forced to resign after losing a vote of confidence; former Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau assumes leadership of a new government.  An American delegation led by Colonel House arrives in Paris for the inaugural conference of the Inter-Allied Supreme War Council.  In Great Britain, the Marquess of Lansdowne, a former Foreign Secretary, sends a letter to the Daily Telegraph urging the Government to seek a negotiated peace with Germany.  In an agreement finalized in Washington, the United States agrees that Japan has "special interests" in China and Japan agrees to the "principle" of the "open door" policy; China is not consulted.  President Wilson tells the annual convention of the American Federation of Labor in Buffalo that the way to a permanent peace is through victory.  American forces achieve their first victories and suffer their first casualties of the war.  Woman suffrage, still making slow but steady gains state by state, is approved in New York but rejected in Ohio.  New York City's reform mayor John Purroy Mitchel loses his bid for reelection to Tammany Hall’s candidate.  The Espionage Act survives a First Amendment challenge.



*****



Arthur Balfour and His Declaration

Zionism is a movement established in the 1890's to promote the establishment of a Jewish homeland in the historic land of Israel in Ottoman Palestine.  It was begun by Theodor Herzl and continued after Herzl's death by Chaim Weizmann.  The movement gained momentum with the outbreak of the World War and the Ottoman Empire's decision to  join the war on the side of the Central Powers.  In last year's Sykes-Picot Agreement, in which Great Britain, France and Russia agreed to the division of large parts of the Ottoman Empire into spheres of influence, the future of that territory, including Jerusalem and its surroundings, was left for future determination.  On November 2, motivated at least in part by a desire to appeal to the Jews of Russia, most of whom are believed to support the Zionist cause, the British Government issued a declaration signed by Foreign Minister Arthur Balfour.  The brief declaration states "His Majesty's government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing will be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country." 


 Lenin in Petrograd

In the aftermath of the Kornilov Affair (see the September 1917 installment of this blog), Russian public opinion, at least in the streets of Petrograd, moved decisively in favor of the Bolsheviks.  On November 4, reacting to reports that Russian soldiers on the Baltic front were throwing down their arms and fraternizing with the Germans, the Provisional Government ordered the Petrograd garrison to the front.  The only result of Kerensky's order was to cause the Bolsheviks to accelerate their plan to overthrow the government.  On November 6 (October 24 on the Russian calendar) the Bolsheviks seized control of telephone exchanges, post offices, banks, bridges, railway stations and other key locations in Petrograd.  Then they issued an ultimatum to the Provisional Government and surrounded the Winter Palace, where the members of the Provisional Government were in residence.  The Bolsheviks, who greatly outnumbered the forces loyal to the government, were further reinforced by naval forces arriving from the Baltic, including a cruiser that anchored in the Neva River and trained its guns on the Winter Palace.  The government surrendered the next day without bloodshed, and the Military Revolutionary Committee of the Petrograd Soviet promptly issued a statement that it had "deposed the government of Kerensky, which rose against the revolution and the people."  It called on Russian soldiers to "watch closely the conduct of the men in command" and ensure that "officers who do not join the accomplished revolution immediately and openly [are] arrested at once as enemies."  It outlined a four-point program: "First -- the offer of an immediate democratic peace.  Second -- the immediate handing over of large proprietorial lands to the peasants.  Third -- the transmission of all authority to the Council of Workmen's and Soldiers' Delegates.  Fourth -- the honest convocation of a Constitutional Assembly."

As the Bolsheviks stormed the Winter Palace, Premier Kerensky managed to escape in an automobile borrowed from the American Embassy.  He drove to Pskov, where he rallied the troops in an attempt to come to the government's defense.  His troops succeeded in capturing Tsarskoe Selo, but were turned back at Pulkovo.  Kerensky is now in hiding, and the Bolsheviks are firmly in control of Petrograd, and apparently of the Russian army and government.



 
 Leon Trotsky

On November 24 Leon Trotsky, the Foreign Minister of the new Bolshevik government, began releasing the text of secret diplomatic communications and treaties found in the Russian archives.  Among the material disclosed was last year's Sykes-Picot Agreement, dividing post-war spheres of influence in the Ottoman Empire between France and Great Britain (see the April 1916 installment of this blog).  The documents, Trotsky said in a statement, are those of the "Czaristic bourgeois and coalition governments" from which "the Russian nation and all nations in the world must learn the truth of the plans secretly made by financiers and traders through their parliamentary and diplomatic agents."  He said that while German and Austrian politicians might try to take advantage of the release to the detriment of Russian interests, he is confident that when the German proletariat, by means of a revolution, gain access to their nations' chancelleries they will find documents that show those governments in no better light.


 Nikolai Krylenko

The new Russian government has moved quickly to redeem its pledge to get the country out of the war.  Lenin has hedged slightly, saying his party has already fulfilled its promises by releasing the secret treaties and making "an immediate proposal for peace."  He states that "the revolutionary struggle for peace" will now begin.  When General Nikolai Dukhonin, named commander-in-chief of the Russian Army by Premier Kerensky in August, refused Lenin's order to open armistice talks, he was dismissed and replaced by Ensign Nikolai Krylenko, who despite his modest military title is a "People's Commissar" and a member of the inner circle of the new government.  Krylenko sent three representatives to the German commander at the front with instructions to inquire whether immediate negotiations for an armistice might be commenced.  The Russian delegates crossed the German lines on November 27 and began negotiations with the German military authorities with the goal of beginning comprehensive negotiations for an armistice.



 Chancellor von Hertling

Germany has a new Chancellor, Georg von Hertling, who came to power on November 1.  In a speech in the Reichstag on November 29, he responded to the Russian overture by announcing that Germany is prepared to enter into peace negotiations with the new Russian government as soon as it is able to send representatives with full powers to Berlin.  Negotiations are now scheduled to begin on December 2.  The French and American military missions in Petrograd responded to these developments by sending letters to the Russian government formally protesting any separate armistice or peace by Russia.  On November 30 their letters drew a sharp response from Foreign Minister Trotsky, who insisted that Russia "cannot permit allied military and diplomatic agents to interfere in the internal affairs of our country and attempt to excite civil war."



Ground Won by the Canadians at Passchendaele

The British offensive on the Ypres Salient came to an end this month, short of its original goal of the railway junction at Roulers.  Since it began on the last day of July, the offensive gained four and a half miles of muddy ground at the cost of 62,000 British, Canadian and Anzac soldiers killed and 164,000 wounded.  The village of Passchendaele was captured on November 6 and the ridge beyond on November 10.  The final attack, like most of the offensive, was hindered by a steady rain that turned the battlefield into a swamp.



A British Tank at the Battle of Cambrai

After securing Passchendaele Ridge and the little that was left of the village of Passchendaele, Field Marshal Haig turned his attention to the town of Cambrai, an important supply center for the Germans about six miles behind the Hindenburg Line.  At 6:20 a.m. on November 20, without any advance artillery preparation or other indication that an attack was imminent, the British began an intense artillery barrage coordinated with a simultaneous attack by a mass formation of 324 Mark IV "tanks."  Compared to the area around the Ypres Salient, the terrain was dry and solid, ideal for tanks, which rolled effortlessly over the multiple lines of barbed wire the Germans had deployed.  Caught by surprise, the Germans found the tanks on top of them before they could react and the British were able to make substantial gains.  Bells of celebration were rung in London when news of the advance arrived on November 23, but on the 27th the British were forced to break off the action short of the town of Cambrai, and in a counterattack begun the next day the Germans regained much of the lost ground.



 German Troops in Vittorio Veneto

The Italian Army has been in retreat since the Austro-German offensive began last month at Caporetto.  Unable to prevent the crossing of the Tagliamento on November 6, the Italian Army fell back to the Piave, the last river between the Austrians and Venice and sixty miles from Caporetto where the attack began.  With help from British troops transferred from the Western Front, the Italians have been successful in preventing a crossing of the Piave, and on November 19 they mounted a counteroffensive on the Asiago Plateau.



 General Cadorna

Political and military leader of Italy, France and Great Britain met at Rapallo, a small town near Rome, on November 5 to discuss military strategy in the midst of the severe setbacks suffered by the Italian Army in the Caporetto offensive.  The delegations were led by the prime ministers: David Lloyd George for Great Britain, Paul Painleve for France, and Vittorio Orlando for Italy.  The conference promised aid to the struggling Italian forces and established a Supreme War Council to coordinate the Allies' future military strategy.  At the insistence of Britain and France, General Luigi Cadorna, the architect of Italy's failed campaign on the Isonzo, was dismissed as chief of the Italian General Staff and replaced by General Armando Diaz.  The conferees agreed to a meeting of the Allied Supreme War Council on November 15 in Paris.



 Georges Clemenceau

When French Prime Minister Paul Painleve returned to Paris from the conference at Rapallo, he immediately confronted a political crisis.  On November 13, an extended debate in the Chamber of Deputies on the question of the new Allied War Council led to a narrow vote in the government's favor, but it was followed by interpellations (formal questions interrupting the regular order in parliamentary procedure) seeking an explanation of accusations in the press of a royalist plot and against former Minister of the Interior Louis-Jean Malvy.  Painleve demanded postponement of those questions until after the conclusion of the inter-allied conference, and made that question one of confidence.  On the ensuing vote of confidence the Socialists refused to support the government, and the government lost by a vote of 277-186.  Painleve and his cabinet immediately submitted their resignations to President Poincare.  The new Prime Minister, who will now represent France on the Supreme Allied War Council, is newspaper editor and former Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau, who will also serve as Minister of War.



 
  American Mission to the Inter-Allied Supreme War Council
(on the sofa: Admiral Benson, "Colonel" House, General Bliss)

Last month an American mission was sent to Paris to obtain information regarding the existing conditions of the Allied nations prosecuting the war against Germany and to determine the most effective contribution the United States could make as an Associated Power.  The mission arrived in London on November 7, the same day the Allies in Rapallo created the Supreme Allied War Council and the Bolsheviks overthrew the Kerensky government in Russia.  The American mission is led by President Wilson's advisor "Colonel" Edward M. House.  He is accompanied by Army Chief of Staff General Tasker H. Bliss and Chief of Naval Operations Admiral William S. Benson, as the military and naval representatives.  On November 17 the United States formally adhered to the Supreme War Council and designated Colonel House and General Bliss as its civilian and military representatives.  The next day, President Wilson sent a cable to Colonel House asking him to attend the first meeting of the Council and emphasizing that "unity of plan and control" between the Allies and the United States is essential to achieving a just and permanent peace.  The Council is now scheduled to meet in Paris on December 1.


 Viscount Ishii Kikujiro and Secretary of State Robert Lansing

Secretary of State Robert Lansing and Viscount Ishii Kikujiro, special ambassador from Japan, entered into an agreement on November 2 in which the United States "recognizes that Japan has special interests in China."  The same agreement, however, states that the two governments "will always adhere to the principle of the so-called 'open door,' or equal opportunity for commerce and industry in China."  Ten days later, the Chinese government formally protested, stating that it does not consider itself bound by agreements entered into by other nations.  By declaring war on Germany in August, China aligned itself, at least formally, with Japan in the World War.  The Lansing-Ishii Agreement, however, highlights the continuing adversarial relationship between the two countries.




The Marquis of Lansdowne

Henry Charles Keith Petty-Fitzmaurice, Fifth Marquis of Lansdowne and former Governor-general of Canada, Viceroy of India and Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom, has written a letter to the Daily Telegraph which was published on November 29.  In his letter Lord Lansdowne called for immediate negotiations to bring an end to the World War, the prolongation of which, he said, "will spell ruin to the civilized world, and an infinite addition to the load of human suffering which already weighs upon it."  Lord Lansdowne's letter has been widely denounced in the press and disavowed by British politicians of all parties.  Lord Northcliffe's Evening News called the Marquis of Lansdowne the "Marquis of Hands Up."



President Wilson in Buffalo


 President Wilson with Samuel Gompers (Center) and Secretary of Labor William B. Wilson Last Year at the Dedication of the AFL's New Headquarters in Washington

In a speech on November 12 to the annual convention of the American Federation of Labor in Buffalo, New York, President Wilson warned against a premature peace with Germany.  He appealed to American labor for its full cooperation in achieving victory in the World War.  He brought the crowd to its feet cheering when he dismissed the pacifists, saying "I want peace, but I know how to get it and they do not."  The President said he had sent Colonel House abroad to confer with the other nations that are at war with Germany to arrive at a strategy for victory, "and he knows, as I know, that that is the way to get peace if you want it for more than a few minutes."  He paid tribute to Samuel Gompers, the President of the Federation, saluting Gompers as a man of "patriotic courage, large vision, and a statesmanlike sense of what is to be done."  The President addressed indirectly a rumored revolt of pacifists and Socialists against Gompers' leadership when he said "I like to lay my mind alongside a mind that knows how to pull in harness.  The horses that kick over the traces will have to be put in a corral."


U.S.S. Fanning in Port After Its Battle With a German U-boat

This month saw the first combat by American forces, on land and sea.  On November 17, the Navy claimed its first victory of the war.  Two destroyers, U.S.S. Fanning (DD-37) and U.S.S. Nicholson (DD-52), were escorting a convoy in the North Atlantic when an alert lookout on the Fanning sighted a small periscope that was visible for only a few seconds.  Fanning immediately headed for the spot and dropped a depth charge about three minutes after the sighting.  It was joined by Nicholson, which dropped another depth charge, forcing the U-boat to the surface.  The destroyers gave chase, firing their bow guns, and after the third shot the submarine hove to and the crew came on deck with their hands in the air.  The entire engagement lasted about ten minutes. An attempt was made to take the U-boat in tow, but it began to sink and the German sailors jumped into the water and swam to the Fanning.  Most of them were rescued and taken prisoner.

Fighting on the Western Front has claimed the lives of three Americans.  On November 16, Corporal James Gresham and Privates Merle D. Hay and Thomas F. Enright became the first American soldiers reported killed in action in the World War. They were mentioned in the dispatches of the French General commanding the sector, who reported that they "died bravely in hand-to-hand fighting with the enemy, who had penetrated the first line."


 Suffragists on Fifth Avenue

A Women's Suffrage Amendment to the New York Constitution was overwhelmingly approved on November 6.  On the same day a similar proposal was defeated in Ohio.  This is the third time the voters of Ohio have rejected Women's Suffrage proposals.  All the voters in both states, of course, were male.


 John F. Hylan

Tammany Hall swept the November 6 municipal elections in New York City.  The Tammany candidate for mayor, John F. Hylan, easily defeated both the incumbent mayor, John Purroy Mitchel, who ran as an independent, and William Bennett, the man who defeated Mitchel in the Republican primary.  Mitchel came in second.  Morris Hillquit, the Socialist candidate, came in third, barely behind Mitchel and well ahead of Bennett, who finished a distant fourth.  In a statement after the election, Hillquit noted the "tremendous Socialist gains" over the previous mayoral election.  Alfred E. Smith, the Sheriff of New York County, was elected President of the Board of Aldermen.  Conceding defeat, Mayor Mitchel called for unity, saying "with our nation at war, there is no room for division at home."  Charles Murphy, the Boss of Tammany Hall, is considered the real victor.  He said "there was no issue of Americanism or loyalty as far as I am concerned" and "I am as good an American as any man."  Bennett blamed Mayor Mitchel for "turning the city over to Tammany." 


 September Issue of The Masses


Judge Learned Hand

The Espionage Act, which became law on June 15, makes it unlawful to "interfere with the operation or success of the military or naval forces" or "incite insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny, or refusal of duty" or "obstruct the recruiting or enlistment service" or "utter, print, write or publish any disloyal, profane, scurrilous or abusive language about the form of government of the United States" or "advocate, teach, defend, or suggest" any of those things.  In addition to substantial criminal penalties, the Act empowers the Postmaster General to bar publications that violate the Act from the mail.  Shortly after the Act became law, Postmaster General Albert S. Burleson ordered the August 1917 issue of the Socialist magazine "The Masses" excluded from the mails, citing articles and cartoons criticizing the war and the draft. On July 24, in a case challenging Burleson's order, United States District Court Judge Learned Hand enjoined the Post Office from refusing to deliver the magazine.  He wrote that although articles and cartoons in The Masses might fall within the language of the statute, "they fall within the scope of that right to criticize ... which is normally the privilege of the individual in countries dependent upon the free expression of opinion as the ultimate source of authority," and were thus protected by the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of speech and the press.  The government appealed, and on November 2 a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals reversed Judge Hand's order and reinstated the ban.  In an opinion written by Judge Henry W. Rogers, the Court of Appeals held that the Espionage Act was constitutional and that "to obstruct the recruiting or enlistment service within the meaning of the statute it is not necessary that there should be a physical obstruction.  Anything which impedes, hinders, retards, restrains, or puts an obstacle in the way of recruiting is sufficient."  The Court concluded that "considering the natural and reasonable effect of the publication, it was intended to wilfully obstruct recruiting."

Thirteen copies of the September issue of The Masses have been held up at the Post Office for insufficient postage.  Postmaster General Burleson has determined that, because the August issue was not mailed, the magazine is no longer eligible for mailing as a periodical.  Other methods of circulation may also be foreclosed.  The Trading with the Enemy Act, which became law on October 6, forbids any person to "carry, transport, publish, or distribute" any publication that is unmailable under the Espionage Act.


 *****

November 1917 – Selected Sources and Recommended Reading

Contemporary Periodicals:
American Review of Reviews, December 1917 and January 1918
New York Times, November and December 1917

Books and Articles:

John Barrett, Latin America and the War
A. Scott Berg, Wilson
Tasker H. Bliss, Report of the Military Representative on the Supreme War Council to the Secretary of State, U.S. Department of State, Office of the Historian, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1914-20v02/d147
Britain at War Magazine, The Fourth Year of the Great War: 1917
Winston S. Churchill, The World Crisis 1911-1918
John Milton Cooper, Jr., Woodrow Wilson: A Biography
John Milton Cooper, Jr., The Warrior and the Priest: Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt
John Dos Passos, Mr. Wilson's War
David Fromkin, A Peace to End All Peace: Creating the Modern Middle East, 1914-1922
Martin Gilbert, Churchill: A Life
Martin Gilbert, The First World War: A Complete History
Martin Gilbert, A History of the Twentieth Century, Volume One: 1900-1933
Martin Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill Volume IV: The Stricken World 1916-1922
Ann Hagedorn, Savage Peace, Hope and Fear in America, 1919
August Heckscher, Woodrow Wilson: A Biography
Godfrey Hodgson, Woodrow Wilson's Right Hand: The Life of Colonel Edward M. House
Roy Jenkins, Churchill: A Biography
John Keegan, The First World War
David M. Kennedy, Over Here: The First World War and American Society
Ian Kershaw, To Hell and Back: Europe 1914-1949 
Anthony Lewis, Make No Law: The Sullivan Case and the First Amendment
Arthur S. Link, Wilson: Confusions and Crises, 1915-1916 
Arthur S. Link, Woodrow Wilson and the Progressive Era, 1910-1917
Robert K. Massie, Nicholas and Alexandra
G.J. Meyer, A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, 1914 to 1918
G.J. Meyer, The World Remade: America in World War I
Michael S. Neiberg, The Path to War: How the First World War Created Modern America
Edward J. Renehan Jr., The Lion's Pride: Theodore Roosevelt and His Family in Peace and War
Jonathan Schneer, The Balfour Declaration: The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict
Richard Sutch, Liberty Bonds, April 1917-September 1918, Federal Reserve History, https://www.federalreservehistory.org/essays/liberty_bonds
J. Lee Thompson, Never Call Retreat: Theodore Roosevelt and the Great War
Adam Tooze, The Deluge: The Great War, America and the Remaking of the Global Order, 1916-1931
Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns, The Roosevelts: An Intimate History
The West Point Atlas of War: World War I