Thursday, January 31, 2019

January 1919

It's January 1919.  The Great War has come to an end, and the victors are assembling in Paris to decide on the terms of the peace.  In the United States former President Roosevelt dies at his home in Oyster Bay.  The Eighteenth Amendment is ratified making prohibition the law of the land.

As we observe the end of an era in world history and the beginning of a new one, I have decided that it is an appropriate time to end my monthly blog posts.  This month-by-month review of world events (mostly from an American perspective) has been an enjoyable and educational exercise for me, as I hope it has been for my readers.  All of the monthly installments, beginning with September 1911, remain available in the blog archive, and I may well add posts from time to time, just not on the rigid monthly schedule I've followed for the last seven plus years.  Many thanks to all of you for your interest and feedback.

*****


 Roosevelt at Sagamore Hill

Former President Theodore Roosevelt died in his sleep at Sagamore Hill on the morning of January 6.  He had returned home on Christmas Day after a hospital stay that began on November 11 for treatment of a painful case of inflammatory rheumatism.  The cause of death was a pulmonary embolism.  Roosevelt was working hard as recently as the day before his death, proofreading a series of magazine articles and planning a meeting with Republican Party Chairman Will Hays to discuss a possible run for the presidency in 1920.  On January 3 he had dictated an article for the Kansas City Star in which he criticized President Wilson's utterances as "still absolutely in the stage of rhetoric precisely like the 'fourteen points,'" some of which may "be construed as having a mischievous significance, a smaller number might be construed as being harmless, and one or two even as beneficial, but nobody knows what Mr. Wilson really means by them."  Instead of the proposed League of Nations, Roosevelt asked whether it would not "be well to begin with the League which we already have in existence, the League of the Allies who have fought through this great war," and then "extend the privileges of the League, as rapidly as their conduct warrants it, to other nations."  Finally, he asserted that "the American people do not intend to give up the Monroe Doctrine," and recommended a similar policy for the rest of the world, proposing that "civilized Europe and Asia introduce some kind of police system in the weak and disorderly countries at their thresholds."

A funeral service was held on January 8 at Christ Episcopal Church in Oyster Bay, followed by a graveside burial service.  Because the grave is on a steep hill accessible only by foot, automobiles had to be parked outside the cemetery gate.



President Wilson and King Victor Emmanuel

After their visit to Great Britain, President and Mrs. Wilson returned to France on the last day of the year, then moved on to Italy, arriving in Rome with the President's daughter Margaret on Friday, January 3.  They were greeted at the station by King Victor Emmanuel and Queen Helena, local officials, and members of the Italian government.  The crowds that greeted the President and his party as they were carried through the streets were, if possible, even larger and more enthusiastic than those in Paris and London.  On the day of his arrival he addressed the Italian Parliament, attended a state dinner as the guest of honor, and was made an honorary citizen of Rome.  The next day he was received at the Vatican by Pope Benedict XV.  On his way back to Paris, he stopped at Genoa, Turin and Milan.  In Turin he was notified by telegram of the death of President Roosevelt, perhaps his most outspoken political adversary, and sent a telegram of condolence to his widow.



The Supreme War Council (Left to Right: Orlando, Lloyd George, Clemenceau, Wilson)

The President arrived back in Paris on January 7.  Resisting the urgent requests of President Poincare, Premier Clemenceau, Ambassador Jusserand and others, he declined to visit the devastated regions of Belgium and France.  His stated reason was that he wanted the conference to proceed on schedule; privately he expressed concern that the European Allies had extended the invitation in the hope that the visit would cause him to share their hatred of Germany, and insisted he wanted to attend the conference with an open mind.  On January 11 Secretary of State Lansing gave the President an outline of topics for discussion at the conference, including a skeletal version of the peace treaty.  Wilson angrily rejected it, saying he did not want lawyers drafting the treaty.

The Supreme War Council (the heads of government of France, Great Britain, Italy and the United States) met at the Quai d'Orsay on January 12 for preliminary discussions.  Among other things, they decided to add Japan to the group, along with each nation's foreign minister.  The resulting "Council of Ten" will be the principal decision-making body of the conference.  On January 18 the formal opening of the conference took place.  After President Poincare's welcoming speech, the conference chose a permanent chairman.  Following his nomination by President Wilson, Premier Clemenceau was elected unanimously.

 

William Jennings Bryan

As newly elected state legislatures convened throughout the United States, one after another passed resolutions ratifying the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which will prohibit the import, manufacture, sale or transportation of intoxicating liquors.  When the month began, the amendment had been ratified by only fifteen of the necessary thirty-six states; by month's end, the number was forty-four.  The thirty-sixth state to ratify the amendment, on January 16, was Nebraska, the home state of former Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan, a prominent advocate of prohibition who famously served grape juice at a diplomatic dinner shortly after becoming Secretary of State.  The amendment became part of the Constitution at noon on January 29, when acting Secretary of State Frank L. Polk signed the formal proclamation in the reception room adjoining the Secretary's office.  Among those present were Mr. Bryan, the amendment's sponsor Senator Morris Sheppard of Texas, and representatives of various temperance organizations.  The amendment will take effect one year from the date of its ratification, January 16, 1920.


*****


January 1919 – Selected Sources and Recommended Reading

Contemporary Periodicals:
American Review of Reviews, January and February 1919
New York Times, January 1919

Books and Articles:
A. Scott Berg, Wilson
Britain at War Magazine, The Fifth Year of the Great War: 1918
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
Kenneth S. Davis, FDR: The Beckoning of Destiny
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 
W. Bruce Lincoln, Passage Through Armageddon: The Russians In War and Revolution 1914-1918
Giles MacDonogh, The Last Kaiser: The Life of Wilhelm II 
Margaret MacMillan, Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World
Robert K. Massie, Castles of Steel: Britain, Germany, and the Winning of the Great War at Sea
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 
Ted Morgan, FDR: A Biography
William Mulligan, The Great War for Peace
Michael S. Neiberg, The Path to War: How the First World War Created Modern America
Patricia O'Toole, The Moralist: Woodrow Wilson and the World He Made 
Edward J. Renehan, The Lion's Pride: Theodore Roosevelt and His Family in Peace and War
Andrew Roberts, Churchill: Walking With Destiny
Jonathan Schneer, The Balfour Declaration: The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict
David Stevenson, Cataclysm: The First World War As Political Tragedy 
David Stevenson, With Our Backs to the Wall: Victory and Defeat in 1918
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, A First Class Temperament: The Emergence of Franklin Roosevelt
Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns, The Roosevelts: An Intimate History

Monday, December 31, 2018

December 1918


It's December 1918 and the Great War has come to an end.  As the United States Congress convenes in its “lame duck” session after the mid-term elections, President Wilson delivers his annual State of the Union address.  Explaining his decision to attend the peace conference in person, he receives a noticeably less friendly reception than in previous appearances before Congress. The next day he departs for France, where his welcome is far more enthusiastic.  After spending Christmas with American troops he travels to England, where he and Mrs. Wilson are guests of the King and Queen.  While he is there, the results of the British Parliamentary elections are announced.  The expanded British electorate, which includes women for the first time, returns Lloyd George's coalition government to power while inflicting decisive defeats on the parties that controlled Parliament when the war began.  The European Allies meet in London in an effort to arrive at a common approach to issues certain to arise at the peace conference, but fail to reach agreement on many issues.  Russia, nominally a victor in the war, has not been heard from.  A new nation of South Slavs is proclaimed in Belgrade; combining nations on both sides of the war practicing different religions and speaking different languages, it faces an uncertain future.


*****


 President Wilson Delivering His State of the Union Address

As required by Article I, Section 4 of the Constitution, Congress convened on December 2, the first Monday in December.  The Constitution also requires that the President "from time to time give to the Congress information on the State of the Union," and President Wilson has chosen throughout his presidency to do so in person.  After both houses passed resolutions approving the convening of a joint session, the Senators walked through the Capitol building to the House chamber, where at 1:00 p.m. a committee of Senators escorted the President to the podium.  The Congress he addressed, of course, is the outgoing one.  The Congress elected in November will not take office until March, and will not convene in its regular session until December of next year.

The dominant subject of the President's message was the recent end of the fighting in Europe.  Near the end of his speech he announced his plan to attend the peace conference in person.  He said he regarded it as his duty to attend because, both sides having accepted his Fourteen Points as the basis for peace, he should be available to give his “personal counsel in their interpretation and application.”   He asked for Congress's support: "May I not hope, gentlemen of the Congress, that in the delicate tasks I shall have to perform on the other side of the seas in my efforts truly and faithfully to interpret the principles and purposes of the country we love, I may have the encouragement and the added strength of your united support?"  Unlike the friendly reception President Wilson had received every other time he had addressed Congress, especially last year when he asked for a declaration of war against Germany and again last month when he announced the terms of the armistice, the applause that greeted this announcement was hesitant and almost entirely limited to Democratic members of the House of Representatives.  The Justices of the Supreme Court, seated in the well in front of the first row of Senators, seemed uncertain what to do, finally standing as a show of respect but not applauding.  Chief Justice White, who had led the applause on previous occasions, was absent.  Most Senators kept their seats.

President Wilson's trip to Europe is the first by any President while in office, and except for President Roosevelt's brief trip to the Panama Canal Zone in 1906 it is the first time any sitting president has left the country.  Before the joint session convened, resolutions were introduced in both houses of Congress declaring the office of President vacant during the President's absence, and Senator Albert B. Cummins (Rep., Iowa) introduced a resolution providing for the appointment of a committee of eight Senators to attend the peace conference.  Congress remains under Democratic Party control until March, however, so none of the resolutions was brought to a vote.


Roosevelt in Washington, D.C. Earlier This Year

Former President Roosevelt has been hospitalized since the armistice at Roosevelt Hospital in New York with a severe case of rheumatism.  When President Wilson announced that he would lead the peace commission to Paris, Roosevelt immediately objected that in view of the recent Congressional election Wilson has "no authority whatever to speak for the American people." On December 3, the day after the President's address to Congress, Roosevelt issued a statement from his hospital bed that "President Wilson has not given the slightest explanation of what his views are or why he is going abroad.  He pleads for unity, but he is himself responsible for any division among the American people."  "As for the fourteen points," he said, "so far as the American people have expressed any opinion upon them, it was on November 5, when they rejected them."  He insisted that America must look after its own interests, maintaining its economic independence, preserving the Monroe Doctrine and control over the Panama Canal, and otherwise avoiding interference in foreign affairs.  At the Peace Conference, he said, "it is [the President's] business to stand by France, England, and our other allies and to present with them a solid front to Germany."  On Christmas Day, Roosevelt left the hospital and returned to his home at Oyster Bay.



The President Departs for Europe

The evening following his address to Congress President Wilson left the White House and traveled by rail to Hoboken, New Jersey, where he boarded the U.S.S. George Washington, a former German ocean liner seized and converted to a troop transport during the war.  The President's wife accompanied him, along with two of the other members of the American Peace Commission, Secretary of State Lansing and Ambassador White.  (Colonel House and General Bliss, the other members of the Peace Commission, were already in France).  Over one hundred others were also on board, including Admiral Grayson, the President's physician; George Creel of the Committee on Public Information; the French, Italian and Belgian ambassadors; and twenty-three members of the Inquiry, a group of experts assembled last year to advise the President on matters related to the peace (see the January 1918 installment of this blog).  Lord Reading, the British Ambassador to the United States, is also Lord Chief Justice of England.  He returned to England in August.

During the voyage to Europe President Wilson and his wife kept largely to themselves.  Although Secretary Lansing had written a memorandum to the President shortly after the armistice laying out a number of questions likely to arise at the peace conference, the President had not replied.  At the suggestion of Inquiry member William C. Bullitt, the President held one meeting en route to France with selected members of the group in which he outlined in general terms his objectives for the conference.  He emphasized that he would rely heavily on their advice, saying "Tell me what's right and I'll fight for it."



 The President Arrives in France

The U.S.S. George Washington dropped anchor in the Brest roadstead on Friday, December 13, a date many superstitious people might consider unlucky.  President Wilson, however, considers thirteen his lucky number.  His name has thirteen letters, he became Princeton's thirteenth president in his thirteenth year there, and his inauguration as President of the United States took place in 1913.  Add the fact that thirteen is the number of stripes on the American flag, representing the thirteen original states, and his choice of the thirteenth as the date for his arrival seems inevitable.  In Brest, he made brief remarks in a crowded reception room at the pier, where Ambassador Jusserand led the applause waving his hat above his head.  Automobiles then carried the President's party to the railroad station along a fifteen-minute route lined by thousands of cheering spectators, including soldiers and sailors in uniform and children dressed in Breton costumes.







 Paris Welcomes President Wilson

At ten o'clock the next morning the presidential train pulled slowly into the Bois de Boulogne Station in Paris with an American flag draped across the front of the locomotive.  As President Wilson stepped down from the first car, he was greeted by a young woman in the peasant costume of Alsace.  After brief informal greetings on the platform, Presidents Wilson and Poincare entered a carriage drawn by two horses and followed by a dozen other carriages carrying the presidents' wives, Prime Minister Clemenceau, Ambassadors Sharp and Jusserand, and other dignitaries.  The procession, greeted for miles by enthusiastic crowds waving American flags, moved from the Bois de Boulogne to the Champs Elysses, across the Alexander III Bridge, then back across the river through the Place de la Concorde to the palace of Prince Murat, where President Wilson will reside during his stay in Paris.  He spent two hours with Colonel House that afternoon, and met with Premier Clemenceau twice in the following days.  


 President and Mrs. Wilson with the King and Queen and Princess Mary

President Wilson spent Christmas Day at American Army headquarters in Chaumont, where he reviewed the troops.  The President and Mrs. Wilson shared Christmas dinner with General Pershing and departed that evening for London.  The next day they were greeted by the King and Queen at Charing Cross Station and taken through streets lined with cheering crowds to Buckingham Palace, where they stayed as guests until their return to France on the last day of the year.



 Eamon de Valera

Parliamentary elections were held in Great Britain on December 14.  Because it took some time to receive and tabulate the soldier vote, the results were not announced until December 28, during the President's stay in London.  The newly enacted Representation of the People Act expanded the franchise significantly, giving the vote to all men over age 21 and men in military and naval service over age 19.  It also included the first grant of woman suffrage, allowing women to vote who were over age 30 and met certain property qualifications.  Prime Minister Lloyd George's coalition government was returned to power by a large majority.  The election was a major defeat for the two parties that together had controlled the government at the beginning of the war.  Herbert Asquith's Liberals saw their representation in Parliament reduced from 272 to 36, and John Dillon's Parliamentary Irish Party lost all but six of its seats to Eamon de Valera's Sinn Fein.  Sinn Fein calls for Irish independence from Great Britain, and has announced that it will meet separately in Dublin and refuse to join the British Parliament in Westminster.  Asquith and Dillon lost their own seats in Parliament.
 



European Allies Confer in London (Front row left to right: Orlando, 
Bonar Law, Clemenceau, Curzon, Lloyd George, Sonnino)

When the month began, Premier Clemenceau was in London meeting with Prime Minister Lloyd George and representatives of the other European Allies.  To allay any concern that the United States was being excluded, Clemenceau met with Colonel House before leaving France and advised him of the meeting, assuring him that no important decisions would be made without the United States.  In fact, the European Allies tried but were unable to reach agreement on common positions on several issues, including disposition of the lands of the Ottoman Empire and Italian claims to lands in the Adriatic.

Another question on which there is no consensus is what role, if any, Russia will have in the Peace Conference.  The nation that first went to war against Germany and Austria-Hungary in 1914 is not represented in Paris.  Although it was the largest of Germany's enemies, and probably saved France from defeat in the early months of the war, its withdrawal from the war at the beginning of this year with the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk came close to bringing about the Allies' defeat, and is regarded by them as a betrayal.  Germany was obliged by the armistice, however, to renounce Brest-Litovsk, so Russia is still technically one of the nations at war with Germany.  On a practical level, moreover, it is virtually impossible for the Paris conferees to discuss a peace settlement without considering Russia.  The role of Russia in the forthcoming conference is further complicated by the fact that its control over its territory is contested by White revolutionaries, by the fact that Allied troops occupy Vladivostok and parts of the Russian Arctic, by the Bolsheviks' repudiation of Russia's debt to the Allies, by their publication of the Allies' secret agreements, and perhaps most fundamentally by uncertainty about whether the Bolshevik government even cares to participate in the conference.



 Nikola Pasic

A new Balkan state declared its existence in Belgrade on December 1.  Combining the pre-war nation of Serbia (now including Montenegro) and southern parts of the defunct Austro-Hungarian Empire, Prince Alexander of Serbia, acting as Regent for his father the King, proclaimed the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.  Non-Serbs prefer to call the new nation Yugoslavia.  Its name, however, is the least of the factors presenting a challenge for the long-term cohesion and viability of the new state.  Others include the fact that Croats and Slovenes were on opposite sides of the recently concluded war; their different religious, linguistic and cultural identities; and their conflicting territorial ambitions.  Alexander has appointed Nikola Pasic, Serbia's pre-war prime minister, to represent the new nation in Paris.  He will be accompanied by Ante Trumbic, a Croatian who has been named foreign minister.




Senator Lodge 

On December 21, while President Wilson was enjoying the adulation of Parisians, Senator Henry Cabot Lodge (Rep., Mass.), who will be Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee in the new Congress, gave a speech on the Senate floor in which he warned against trying to base a peace treaty on the Fourteen Points.  He said it would be "a grave mistake on the part of the President to ignore the Senate, because our ultimate responsibility in making the peace is quite equal to his own."  While he had "no fault to find with [the President] not appointing Senators as delegates to the conference," he expressed the opinion that at least five of the Fourteen Points should be put aside until agreement is reached on the terms of the peace with Germany.  He said the Points regarding secret diplomacy, freedom of the seas, economic barriers, reduction of armaments, and establishment of a League of Nations presented issues which, if interjected into the conference, would likely cause delay and "lead to division among the nations which have conquered Germany."


*****


December 1918 – Selected Sources and Recommended Reading

Contemporary Periodicals:
American Review of Reviews, December 1918 and January 1919
New York Times, December 1918

Books and Articles:
A. Scott Berg, Wilson
Britain at War Magazine, The Fifth Year of the Great War: 1918
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
Kenneth S. Davis, FDR: The Beckoning of Destiny
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
W. Bruce Lincoln, Passage Through Armageddon: The Russians In War and Revolution 1914-1918
Giles MacDonogh, The Last Kaiser: The Life of Wilhelm II 
Margaret MacMillan, Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World
Robert K. Massie, Castles of Steel: Britain, Germany, and the Winning of the Great War at Sea
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 
Ted Morgan, FDR: A Biography
William Mulligan, The Great War for Peace
Michael S. Neiberg, The Path to War: How the First World War Created Modern America
Patricia O'Toole, The Moralist: Woodrow Wilson and the World He Made 
Edward J. Renehan, 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
David Stevenson, Cataclysm: The First World War As Political Tragedy 
David Stevenson, With Our Backs to the Wall: Victory and Defeat in 1918
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, A First Class Temperament: The Emergence of Franklin Roosevelt
Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns, The Roosevelts: An Intimate History
The West Point Atlas of War: World War I

Friday, November 30, 2018

November 1918



In November 1918, after fifty-two months of bloodshed, the most destructive war in history comes to an end.  Unrest among sailors in the German High Seas Fleet grows into a fleet-wide mutiny, and then into a full-fledged revolution. On the Italian Front, the dissolution of the Austria-Hungarian Empire leads to a military collapse and then to an armistice.  The new nations of Austria and Czechoslovakia are proclaimed republics.  On the Western Front the American Army’s Meuse-Argonne offensive reaches Sedan.  Germany is declared a republic.  Kaiser Wilhelm abdicates and flees to Holland.  In a railway car in the Forest of Compiegne, Allied and German representatives agree on the terms of an armistice, bringing fighting on the Western Front to an end.  Germany surrenders its U-boats and its High Seas Fleet to Great Britain.  The German Army in East Africa surrenders.  Belgian King Albert and Queen Elisabeth make a triumphal reentry into Brussels.  Americans elect a Republican Congress.  President Wilson announces he will personally lead the American Peace Commission to Paris and names the commissioners who will accompany him, a list that includes no prominent Republicans and no senators.  Alfred E. Smith is elected governor of New York.  The worst accident in the history of the New York City Subway takes 93 lives.



***** 



German Sailors in the Streets of Wilhelmshaven

Admiral Hipper's dispersal of the High Seas Fleet's Dreadnoughts after the aborted “death ride” against the Royal Navy failed to put an end to the unrest among the German sailors.  A mutiny by sailors aboard Dreadnoughts remaining at Wilhelmshaven was put down and the mutineers arrested.  When the ships transiting the Kaiser Wilhelm Canal arrived at Kiel with many of their sailors imprisoned, thousands of their fellow crewmen took to the streets to demonstrate support and demand the prisoners' release.  Workers' and Sailors' Councils were formed and took control of the port on November 4.  The mutiny spread to Wilhelmshaven, where more Workers' and Sailors' Councils were formed and thousands of armed sailors marched in the streets.  As word of the uprising spread, demonstrations and strikes broke out in Hamburg, Bremen, and other major cities including Berlin.  On November 9, when crewmen aboard Admiral Hipper's flagship lowered the admiral's flag and hoisted the red flag of revolution, the admiral quietly assembled his gear and went ashore.  In Kiel, the Kaiser's brother Prince Henry of Prussia, the Commander-in-Chief of the German Navy, fled the city in an automobile flying a red flag.


 Villa Giusti

By the end of October, with the proclamations of independence by the constituent parts of the Empire and Emperor Karl's announcement that he was relinquishing power to direct state affairs, the Austro-Hungarian army units in Italy were no longer a factor and the Empire itself had effectively ceased to exist.  On November 3 Austria-Hungary's participation in the war came to an official end with an armistice signed at Villa Giusti, near Padua.



American Troops in Action

The military pressure on Germany continued.  The public exchange of notes following Germany's appeal for an armistice in early October caused a marked reduction in German troop morale.  The mutinies that had began in the fleet at Kiel quickly became a revolution, spreading to other Baltic ports, to the Rhineland, then to Berlin and other major cities.  American troops pursuing the Meuse-Argonne offensive reached Sedan and prepared for a thrust toward Verdun, threatening to cut off vital lines of communication for the German Army.  Germany's geographic position became more vulnerable with the exit of Austria-Hungary from the war.



The Kaiser Arrives in Holland

Kaiser Wilhelm abdicated on the afternoon of November 9.  The abdication was announced in Berlin by Chancellor Maximilian, who turned over the chancellorship to Frederick Ebert.  That night the Kaiser boarded his train in the early morning hours.  The train left Spa headed for Liege, but stopped at La Reid, just outside Spa, where Wilhelm and his party were transferred to automobiles for the thirty-mile drive to the Dutch border.  At the border, they waited at the Dutch town of Eisjden while the government decided whether to grant asylum.  Asylum was granted, and the court train was sent to carry Wilhelm and his entourage to Amerongen, where Count Godard Bentinck, a Dutch-English nobleman, had been persuaded to provide refuge for the former Kaiser.




Allied Representatives at Compiegne

As the diplomatic notes between the United States and Germany approached agreement on the framework for an armistice, Allied military commanders met at Senlis and agreed on a recommendation to negotiate a ceasefire under conditions strong enough to prevent Germany from renewing hostilities.  General Pershing took a different view, arguing that the German Army was in no condition to continue the war and that only unconditional surrender would "secure world peace on terms that would insure its permanence."  Colonel House, the American representative meeting in Paris with Allied leaders, told Pershing that the question of a ceasefire was a political one that would be decided by the heads of government, and that they favored an armistice. The Paris conference met from October 29 to November 4 and decided on a coordinated Allied position that was set forth in a November 5 note from Secretary Lansing to the German government.  The note stated that the Allies were willing to negotiate a peace settlement on the basis of the Fourteen Points subject to two reservations.  First (addressing concerns raised by Great Britain), because the second of the Fourteen Points, freedom of the seas, "is open to various interpretations, some of which they could not accept," the Allies reserve "complete freedom on this subject" at the peace conference.  Second, the tenth of the Points, that invaded territories must be "restored as well as evacuated and freed," means that "compensation will be made by Germany for all damage done to the civilian population of the Allies by the aggression of Germany by land, by sea, and from the air."  Finally, the note advised that "Marshal Foch has been authorized . . . to receive properly accredited representatives of the German Government and to communicate to them the terms of an armistice."

A German delegation led by Matthias Erzberger, the leader of the Centre Party in the Reichstag, left German Army headquarters at Spa on November 7 and traveled by road and rail through French-controlled territory to a siding in the Forest of Compiegne on the River Aisne.  On the morning of November 9 they met in his railroad dining car with Marshal Foch and other military representatives of the Allies, who gave them the Allies' armistice terms.  Agreement was reached in the early morning hours of November 11.  Among other things, the Germans agreed to evacuate France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Alsace-Lorraine, and to withdraw from and allow the Allies to occupy Germany as far as the west bank of the Rhine, including occupation of three Rhine bridgeheads.  They also agreed to hand over thousands of heavy weapons, rifles, railway engines and rolling stock, to withdraw behind Germany’s 1914 frontiers in the East, and to make reparations for damage done in Belgium and France.  Immediately after the agreement was signed at 5:00 a.m., Marshal Foch sent a message to Allied troops directing that “Hostilities will cease on the entire front November 11th at 11:00 French time.”

When Admiral Beatty, Commander-in-Chief of the British Grand Fleet, received word of the armistice that afternoon in the Firth of Forth, he issued the order "splice the main-brace," a traditional naval signal meaning an extra ration of rum for the sailors.  American sailors were unable to take advantage of his order.  Secretary of the Navy Daniels, a committed prohibitionist, has forbidden alcoholic beverages on all Navy ships.




 German U-Boats at Harwich

On November 15 at 7:00 p.m., German Rear Admiral Hugo Meurer boarded H.M.S. Queen Elizabeth in the Firth of Forth and was escorted to Admiral Beatty's quarters.  In a reflection of the political turmoil in Germany, Meurer informed Beatty that members of the Sailors' and Workers' Council were aboard his ship and insisted on being allowed to come aboard the Queen Elizabeth and participate in the discussions regarding surrender of the German fleet.  Beatty replied that only Meurer and his staff would be allowed.  In discussions the next morning, it was agreed that the German U-boat fleet would be surrendered to Commodore Reginald Tyrwhitt, commander of the Harwich Force, and that the surface ships would be brought to the Firth of Forth and surrendered to Admiral Beatty, who would then escort them to Scapa Flow where they would be interned.  The first contingent of twenty U-boats arrived at Harwich on November 20.  As of month's end a total of 115 have arrived and more are on the way or yet to be accounted for.



 H.M.S. Cardiff Leading German Ships Into the Firth of Forth

The surface ships of the High Seas Fleet arrived at the Firth of Forth on November 21, and the next day the first of them were under way for Scapa Flow.  Destroyer flotillas went first, followed by light cruisers.  The Dreadnoughts departed on November 24, and by November 27 seventy ships of the High Seas Fleet were riding at anchor in Scapa Flow.



General Lettow-Vorbeck

The war continued beyond November 11 in Africa.  German General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck has conducted a tenacious campaign for the last four years against British, Belgian, Portuguese, Indian and South African forces in German East Africa.  When he learned of the armistice on November 14, he marched his troops to Abercorn, Northern Rhodesia, where he surrendered to the British on November 23.




 Belgium's King Albert I

King Albert and Queen Elisabeth of Belgium reentered Brussels on the morning of November 22, accompanied by Princes Leopold and Charles and Princess Marie Jose.  The King and his family were on horseback, the Crown Prince dressed in khaki and his brother in a midshipman's uniform.  Dense throngs of Belgians lined the way for miles, cheering lustily and throwing flowers in the path of the Royal Family as they rode through the festively decorated city from the Porte de Flanders to the Palais de la Nation.  After listening to the Parliament's welcoming address, the Royal Family reviewed a parade of Allied troops, Belgian, French, British and American, that stretched for ten miles.



Senator Lodge

In the November 5 mid-term elections in the United States, voters rejected President Wilson’s plea for a Democratic Congress, sending Republican majorities to both the Senate and the House of Representatives.  The Senate, where Democrats have enjoyed a 51-45 margin in the 65th Congress, will be controlled in the 66th by a 49-47 Republican majority.  Senator Henry Cabot Lodge (Rep., Mass.),  the unofficial leader of the Senate Republicans, will be Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, succeeding Gilbert Hitchcock (Dem., Neb.) who has held the position since the death of Senator William Stone (Dem., Mo.) in April.  Republicans who captured Senate seats now held by Democrats include Governor Arthur Capper of Kansas, who defeated incumbent Democrat William H. Thompson, and Selden Spencer, who was elected to complete Senator Stone's term in Missouri.  In Michigan, naval officer and former Secretary of the Navy Truman Newberry prevailed over industrialist Henry Ford, who ran for the Senate as a Democrat.

In the outgoing Congress, Republicans have one more member (212) than the Democrats (211) in the House of Representatives, but Democrats control the chamber with the support of three Progressives. (There are two other third-party members; one (Socialist) votes with the Democrats and the other (Prohibitionist) with the Republicans.)  In the incoming Congress, Republicans will have a comfortable majority (240-192, plus one member each from the Prohibition and Farmer-Labor Parties).  Champ Clark (Dem., Mo.), who has been Speaker since 1910, came close to winning his party's nomination for president in 1912 (he led the balloting for thirty ballots before losing the nomination to Woodrow Wilson on the forty-sixth).  He will now lose the Speaker's gavel, and he retained his Congressional seat only by a narrow margin.  Another remarkable reversal took place in Kansas where, in addition to the loss of Thompson's Senate seat, four of the five Democrats in the state's eight-member Congressional delegation lost their bids for reelection.



 Al Smith Casting His Ballot

Bucking the nationwide trend, New Yorkers elected Democrat Alfred E. Smith as their new governor.  Smith, who narrowly defeated the incumbent Republican Charles Whitman, served in the New York State Assembly from 1904 to 1915.  He was Sheriff of New York County (Manhattan) from 1916 to 1917, when he was elected to his present position, President of the New York City Board of Aldermen.  In this year's gubernatorial election, Governor Whitman's lead upstate was substantial, but insufficient to overcome the large majorities Smith rolled up in his home base of New York City.


U.S. Peace Commission (Front Row left to right: House, Lansing, Wilson, White, Bliss)

The White House has released a brief statement announcing the names of the men who will represent the United States at the International Peace Conference scheduled to convene in France early next year.  Although many advised against it, the President has decided to lead the delegation himself.  Except for President Roosevelt's brief visit to the Panama Canal while it was under construction in 1906, it is unprecedented for a president to leave the country while in office.  The other commissioners are Secretary of State Robert Lansing, Colonel Edward House, General Tasker Bliss, and the lone Republican, former Ambassador Henry White.  Secretary of War Newton D. Baker will remain in the United States to address any concern that the absence of multiple cabinet members as well as the President himself might weaken the Executive Branch, particularly in light of William G. McAdoo's resignation this month as Secretary of the Treasury and Director General of Railroads.  Republicans are dismayed that the Commission will not include a more prominent member of their party.  They were not surprised that neither former President Roosevelt nor Senator Henry Cabot Lodge was chosen, since both have been vocal critics of President Wilson throughout the war.  There are other Republicans, however, such as former President William Howard Taft, former presidential candidate Charles Evans Hughes, and former Senator and Secretary of State Elihu Root, who have generally supported the administration's war policies and any of whom would have been more acceptable to Republicans as a representative of their party.  Another focus of criticism is the failure to include senators of either party, which may foreshadow future difficulties when a peace treaty is submitted to the Senate for ratification.



 The Wreckage at Malbone Street

A crowded elevated train operated by the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company entered a tunnel on the Brighton Beach Line at Malbone Street in Flatbush during rush hour on the evening of November 1.  Traveling at an excessive rate of speed, it was unable to negotiate a turn at the tunnel entrance.  It left the tracks and crashed into the side of the tunnel, splintering its wooden cars and killing at least 93 passengers.  The train was operated by a dispatcher who had little or no experience as a motorman and who had been pressed into service to compensate for a shortage of trained motormen due to a strike called by the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers.  Nearby Ebbets Field was thrown open for treatment of the less seriously injured.  The accident is by far the worst in the history of the New York City Transit System.
  

*****


November 1918 – Selected Sources and Recommended Reading

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

Books and Articles:
A. Scott Berg, Wilson
Britain at War Magazine, The Fifth Year of the Great War: 1918
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
Kenneth S. Davis, FDR: The Beckoning of Destiny
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
W. Bruce Lincoln, Passage Through Armageddon: The Russians In War and Revolution 1914-1918
Giles MacDonogh, The Last Kaiser: The Life of Wilhelm II
Robert K. Massie, Castles of Steel: Britain, Germany, and the Winning of the Great War at Sea
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 
Ted Morgan, FDR: A Biography
William Mulligan, The Great War for Peace
Michael S. Neiberg, The Path to War: How the First World War Created Modern America
Patricia O'Toole, The Moralist: Woodrow Wilson and the World He Made 
Edward J. Renehan, 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
David Stevenson, Cataclysm: The First World War As Political Tragedy 
David Stevenson, With Our Backs to the Wall: Victory and Defeat in 1918
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, A First Class Temperament: The Emergence of Franklin Roosevelt
Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns, The Roosevelts: An Intimate History
The West Point Atlas of War: World War I

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

October 1918


In October 1918, under increasing military pressure on all fronts, Germany seeks an end to the fighting.  The new German Chancellor, Prince Maximilian of Baden, sends President Wilson a public note requesting peace negotiations on the basis of the Fourteen Points and the “five particulars” set forth in his recent speech in New York.  Further exchanges culminate in an American demand for submission to Allied military supremacy, cessation of "illegal and inhumane practices" such as submarine attacks on passenger ships, and regime change in Germany.  When Generals Hindenburg and Ludendorff threaten to resign if Wilson’s conditions are accepted, the Kaiser accepts Ludendorff’s resignation but orders Hindenburg to remain.  The Allies’ general offensive on the Western Front succeeds in seizing Cambrai and driving the Germans from the Hindenburg Line, while to the south the American Army begins the second phase of the Meuse-Argonne offensive.  The "lost battalion" is cut off by the Germans in the Argonne Forest and Corporal Alvin York earns the Medal of Honor by leading an attack on a German machine-gun emplacement.  The Austro-Hungarian Empire rapidly disintegrates as a republic is proclaimed in Vienna and as Hungary, Czechoslovakia and other nations in central Europe declare their independence.  In the Near East, the Egyptian Expeditionary Force captures Damascus and Aleppo, leading to an armistice between the Ottoman Empire and Great Britain.  The German High Seas Fleet is ordered to sea for a final battle, but when crews begin to refuse orders the operation is cancelled and the Dreadnought squadrons are dispersed.  In the United States, the proposed Woman Suffrage Amendment to the Constitution fails in the Senate.  As mid-term Congressional elections draw near, President Wilson begs Americans to elect a Democratic Congress.


*****


Prince Max von Baden

At the end of last month German Chancellor Georg von Hertling was forced to resign.  The Kaiser appointed a new chancellor, Prince Maximilian, Margave of Baden, on October 3.  Prince Max accepted the appointment on two conditions, which the Kaiser accepted: first, that Parliament would in the future have the exclusive right to declare war; and second, that the Kaiser relinquish all control over the army and navy.  The new chancellor at first resisted, but finally accepted, Field Marshal Hindenburg's insistence, joined by General Ludendorff, that Germany must seek an immediate end to the war.  On October 6 Prince Max sent a message to President Wilson asking him "to take in hand the restoration of peace, acquaint all the belligerent states of this request, and invite them to send plenipotentiaries for the purpose of opening negotiations."  The message stated that the German government "accepts the program set forth by the President of the United States in his message to Congress on January 8, and in his later pronouncements, especially his speech of September 27, as a basis for peace negotiations."  The chancellor's note requested "with a view to avoiding further bloodshed . . . the immediate conclusion of an armistice on land and water and in the air."  Notes making similar requests were sent by the governments of Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire.



 Secretary of State Lansing

In the United States, senators greeted the German note with demands for German surrender, disarmament and reparations as the price for any cessation of hostilities.  President Wilson, however, sent a prompt reply without consulting the Senate or the Allies.  Signed by Secretary of State Robert Lansing and sent through the Swiss Charge d'Affaires in Berlin, the reply sought clarification of the German proposal.  It asked: "Does the Imperial Chancellor mean that the Imperial German Government accepts the terms laid down by the President in his [Fourteen Points] address . . . and in subsequent addresses, and that its object in entering into discussions would be only to agree upon the practical details of their application?"  The American reply further stated that the President "would not feel at liberty to propose a cessation of arms to the [Allies] so long as the armies of [the Central] Powers are upon their soil."  The Central Powers, therefore, must agree "immediately to withdraw their forces everywhere from invaded territory."  Finally, the Chancellor must state whether he "is speaking merely for the constituted authorities of the Empire who have so far conducted the war."  In Versailles, where they were meeting as the Supreme War Council, the prime ministers of Great Britain, France and Italy, without consulting President Wilson or the State Department, drafted their own statement prescribing harsh terms for any armistice.



Foreign Minister Solf

Germany replied to the American note on October 12.  In a note signed by Wilhelm Solf, the new State Secretary for Foreign Affairs, it stated that "the German Government has accepted the terms laid down by President Wilson in his address of January 8 and in his subsequent addresses on the foundation of a permanent peace of justice" and that "its object in entering into discussion would be only to agree upon practical details of the application of these terms."  It said it believes that the "powers associated with the government of the United States also take the position taken by President Wilson in his address."  It agreed that Germany was "ready to comply with the proposition of the President in regard to evacuation" and suggested "the meeting of a mixed commission for making the necessary arrangements concerning the evacuation."  Finally, on the subject of negotiating authority, it stated that "the present German Government . . . has been formed by conferences and in agreement with the great majority of the Reichstag" and that "the Chancellor, supported in all his actions by the will of this majority, speaks in the name of the German Government and of the German people."




Sergeant York

As diplomatic notes were being exchanged, the war on the Western Front continued.  On October 4 in the Meuse-Argonne, nine companies of the American Army's 77th Division advancing through the Argonne Forest lost contact with the units on their flanks and were cut off by the Germans.  Its survivors were finally rescued after days of fighting.  On October 8, Corporal Alvin York's patrol in the Argonne was surrounded by German forces that outnumbered them ten to one.  Corporal York single-handedly shot and killed some twenty-eight German soldiers and accepted the surrender of 132 more, marching them back to American lines with thirty-five captured machine guns.  Upon his return he was promoted to sergeant and recommended for the Congressional Medal of Honor.



General Liggett

The American offensive in the Meuse-Argonne sector, halted temporarily by strong German defenses at the Kriemhilde Stellung and by an outbreak of influenza in the ranks, resumed on October 14.  General Pershing, while retaining command of the overall American Expeditionary Force, placed General Hunter Liggett in command of the American First Army and gave it principal responsibility for conducting the offensive.  Also slowed by the influenza outbreak, British, French and Belgian forces renewed their offensive in Flanders.  The British Fourth Army broke through the Hindenburg Line between October 3 and 5 and Canadian elements of the British Third Army captured the town of Cambrai on October 8 and 9.  After a brief pause at the River Selle, British and French forces renewed their offensive on October 14, threatening to cut off German army units on the coast.  The next day General Ludendorff ordered a general withdrawal, allowing the Allies to occupy the German U-boat bases at Zeebrugge and advance to the Dutch border.



Senator Ashurst

The German note of October 12 sparked another round of Senate debate and a visit to the White House by Senator Henry F. Ashurst (Dem., Ariz.), who warned the President that if he failed to demand unconditional surrender he would be "destroyed."  The President replied "So far as my being destroyed, I am willing if I can serve my country to go into a cellar and read poetry the remainder of my life."  Ashurst told him a cellar would be necessary "to escape the cyclone of the people's wrath."  Wilson said "Senator, it would relieve a great many people of anxiety if they did not start with the assumption that I am a damn fool."



Colonel House

On October 14 President Wilson and Colonel House drafted a response to the German note.  Signed and sent the same day by Secretary Lansing, it said the German government's "unqualified acceptance" of the principles laid down in the Fourteen Points "justifies the President in making a frank and direct statement of his decision."  It stated that "no arrangement can be accepted . . . which does not provide absolutely satisfactory safeguards and guarantees of the maintenance of the present military supremacy of the armies of the United States and of the Allies in the field."  Nor will any armistice be considered "so long as the armed forces of Germany continue the illegal and inhumane practices which they persist in, including both "submarine attacks on passenger ships at sea -- and not the ships alone, but the very boats in which their passengers and crew seek to make their way to safety" and the "wanton destruction" of cities and villages in France and Flanders "in direct violation of the rules and practices of civilized warfare."  Finally, calling attention to President Wilson's Fourth of July speech at Mount Vernon in which he called for "the destruction of every arbitrary power anywhere that can . . . disturb the peace of the world," the note said that this describes "the power which has hitherto controlled the German nation," and that "it is within the choice of the German nation to alter it."  Calling this a "condition precedent to peace," the note concluded by saying "the whole process of peace will . . . depend upon the definiteness and the satisfactory character of the guarantees which can be given in this fundamental matter."

That evening, after dining with Colonel House and Mrs. Wilson, the President wrote a letter in longhand appointing House the President's "personal representative . . . to take part as such in the conferences of the Supreme War Council and in any other conferences in which it may be serviceable for him to represent me."  He gave the letter to House, who left on the midnight train to New York and sailed for Europe on October 22.



Destruction in Ypres

Foreign Minister Solf replied to the October 14 note on October 21.  In it he "protest[ed] against the reproach of illegal and inhumane actions made against the German land and sea forces and thereby against the German people," saying that "for the covering of a retreat, destructions will always be necessary, and they are carried out in so far as is permitted by international law," and denying that "the German Navy in sinking ships has ever purposely destroyed lifeboats with their passengers."  Regarding the conditions set forth in the American note, he said Germany "trusts that the President of the United States will approve of no demand which would be irreconcilable with the honor of the German people and with opening the way to a peace of justice."  He assumed that the "procedure of [the German] evacuation and of the conditions of an armistice should be left to the judgment of the military advisers" based on "the actual standard of power on both sides in the field."  The note said that "orders [have been] dispatched to all submarine commanders, precluding the torpedoing of passenger ships," but added that it cannot "guarantee that these orders will reach every single submarine at sea before its return."  Finally, in response to President Wilson's insistence on the destruction of the "arbitrary power" that has "hitherto controlled the German nation," the note stated that "the first act of the new Government has been to lay before the Reichstag a bill to alter the Constitution of the Empire so that the consent of the representation of the people is required for decisions on war and peace" and that this new system is guaranteed "not only by constitutional safeguards, but also by the unshakeable determination of the German people."



Hindenburg and Ludendorff

President Wilson responded immediately, rejecting the German reply as unsatisfactory.  The American note, signed by Secretary Lansing and dated October 23, said that while the President "cannot decline to take up with the Governments with which the Government of the United States is associated the question of an armistice," he repeated that "the only armistice he would feel justified in submitting for consideration would be one which would leave the United States and the Powers associated with her in a position to enforce any arrangements entered into and to make a renewal of hostilities on the part of Germany impossible."  He pointed out that, "Significant and important as the Constitutional changes seem to be . . ., it does not appear that the principle of a government responsible to the German people has yet been fully worked out."  Nor does it appear "that the heart of the present difficulty has been reached.  It may be that future wars have been brought under the control of the German people, but the present war has not been; and it is with the present war that we are dealing."  Because "the German people have no means of commanding the acquiescence of the military authorities" and "the power of the King of Prussia to control the policy of the Empire is unimpaired," the President believes that "the nations of the world do not and cannot trust the word of those who have hitherto been the masters of German policy."  The note concluded with an ultimatum for regime change:  "If it must deal with the military masters and the monarchical autocrats of Germany now, or if it is likely to have to deal with them later in regard to the international obligations of the German Empire, it must demand not peace negotiations but surrender."

Prince Max saw no alternative to accepting President Wilson's terms, and after a lengthy cabinet meeting the government chose to accept both the October 14 and October 23 notes.  From army headquarters at Spa, Generals Hindenburg and Ludendorff, recently among the foremost voices calling for an end to the conflict, sent a telegram to army group commanders declaring the conditions demanded by the American note unacceptable and ordering a "fight to the finish."  When one of the army commanders objected the telegram was withdrawn, but not before it had reached the newspapers, where it was published on October 25.  Hindenburg and Ludendorff traveled to Berlin where on October 26 they confronted the Kaiser and threatened to resign if the American conditions were accepted.  Unlike earlier situations of this kind, when such threats by military leaders had forced the resignation of civilian ministers, this time Prince Max threatened to resign unless the Kaiser backed the government.  The Kaiser, angered by the presumption of his generals in sending the "fight to the finish" telegram, accepted Ludendorff's resignation but refused Hindenburg's.



H.M.S. Agamemnon

The Egyptian Expeditionary Force, under the command of General Sir Edmund Allenby, entered Damascus on October 1, welcomed as liberators by the city's Arab residents.  A week later an Indian division entered Beirut, opening another seaport for the Allies.  On October 29 Allenby's forces and Arabs under the command of Sherif Hussein arrived at the outskirts of Aleppo, the northernmost city in Syria, cutting rail communication between Constantinople and Mesopotamia.  Turkish General Mustafa Kemal withdrew his forces from Aleppo and established a defensive position north of the city, approximating a boundary between the Turkish heartland and the Arab lands to the south.  On October 27, negotiations for an armistice began between representatives of the Ottoman Empire and Great Britain.  The negotiations took place aboard H.M.S. Agamemnon, anchored off the Aegean island of Mudros, where agreement was reached and an armistice signed on October 30.  The terms of the armistice require the Ottomans to open the Dardanelles and Bosporus to Allied warships, allow the Allies to occupy Turkish forts along the straits, demobilize the Turkish Army, release prisoners of war, and evacuate the Ottoman Empire’s Arab provinces.  



A Second Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia

Austria-Hungary's request for an armistice has accelerated the independence movements of nationalities within the Empire and throughout Central Europe.  On October 16 Emperor Charles issued a proclamation that the Austrian portion of the Empire "is to become a federal state in which each nationality will form its own polity on the territory on which it lives."  The next day Hungary and Czechoslovakia declared their independence.  In a note dated October 19 President Wilson refused Austria-Hungary's request for armistice negotiations based on the Fourteen Points.  In a note signed by Secretary of State Lansing, he said "events of the utmost importance" occurring since the Fourteen Points address in January "have necessarily altered the attitude and responsibility of the Government of the United States."  Referring to Point Ten (the peoples of Austria-Hungary "should be accorded the freest opportunity of autonomous development"), the note stated that since then the United States "has recognized that a state of belligerency exists between the Czechoslovaks and the German and Austro-Hungarian Empires and that the Czechoslovak National Council is a de facto belligerent Government clothed with proper authority to direct the military and political affairs of the Czechoslovaks."  For that reason, and because the United States "has also recognized in the fullest manner the justice of the national aspirations of the Jugo-Slavs for freedom," the President is "no longer at liberty to accept the mere 'autonomy' of these peoples as a basis for peace, but is obliged to insist that they, and not he, shall be the judges of what action on the part of the Austro-Hungarian Government will satisfy their aspirations and their conception of their rights and destiny as members of the family of nations."  On October 26, in a sweeping assertion of freedom from imperial rule, Czech independence leader Tomas Masaryk stood at Independence Hall in Philadelphia and read a Declaration of Independence on behalf of the Mid-European Union, "a chain of nations lying between the Baltic, the Adriatic and the Black Seas, comprising Czechoslovaks, Poles, Jugoslavs, Ukrainians, Uhro-Russians,  Lithuanians, Rumanians, Italian Irredentists, Unredeemed Greeks, Albanians, and Zionists, wholly or partly subject to alien domination."  The Declaration pledged that "we place our all -- peoples and resources -- at the disposal of our allies for use against our common enemy."  Representatives of each of the nations stepped forward and signed the Declaration on the table where the American founding fathers had signed the American Declaration of Independence in 1776.



Italian Troops on Mount Grappa

The rapid dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire has had its effects on the battlefield.  An Allied offensive under the command of Italian General Armando Diaz began on October 24.  When they learned of their country's declaration of independence, Hungarian soldiers refused to advance, and requested and received permission to return home.  South Slav and Czech units followed suit, and even some German and Austrian units refused to fight as Hungarians left the battlefield.  By month's end, the Allies had seized Vittorio Veneto and Sacile, the Austrians had abandoned Monte Grappa, and an Austrian delegation had crossed Italian lines to negotiate a surrender.  Czech politicians took control of governmental affairs in Prague on October 28.  On October 31 Emperor Charles relinquished power in Vienna and the imperial standard was hauled down from Government House.  In both Vienna and Budapest the military authorities, apparently acting in agreement with their respective National Assemblies, have proclaimed a republic.



German Dreadnoughts

The dreadnoughts of the German High Seas Fleet, except for the Battle of Jutland in May 1916, have remained throughout the war in the safety of the Jade Estuary and the naval base at Heligoland Island.  On October 22, foreseeing a humiliating end to the war for the German Navy, the Chief of the German Naval Staff Admiral Reinhard Scheer, without notifying or obtaining approval from the Kaiser, ordered Admiral Franz von Hipper, the commander of the High Seas Fleet, to "attack the English Fleet as soon as possible."  On October 24, Hipper ordered the Fleet to sea for a final battle.  As the ships began to get up steam for the sortie scheduled for dawn on October 30, German sailors, less attracted than the admirals by the prospect of glorious sacrifice, began refusing orders and abandoning their posts.  After a final briefing session with his admirals and captains on the evening of October 29,  Hipper cancelled the sortie.  In an effort to quell the incipient mutinies and isolate the ringleaders, he ordered the fleet dispersed, sending the dreadnought squadrons to Cuxhaven, Wilhelmshaven, and through the Kiel Canal to the Baltic.



Alice Paul

In the United States, the Senate voted on the proposed woman suffrage amendment to the Constitution on October 1.  The vote was 53 in favor and 41 opposed, three votes short of the required two-thirds.  Before the vote, the Senate defeated by a vote of 61-22 an amendment proposed by Senator John Sharp Williams (Dem., Miss.) to limit the suffrage to white women in order to "preserve the social status of the white women of the South."  President Wilson's extraordinary visit to the Senate the day before the vote and his plea that passage was "vitally essential to the successful prosecution of the . . . war" (see last month's blog post) failed to change a single vote, as did letters from the President delivered to selected Democrats on the floor as the measure was coming to a vote, as did a last-minute appeal by Senator Albert B. Cummins (Rep., Iowa) not to "repudiate" the President.  After the vote Alice Paul, Chairman of the National Woman's Party, said "The defeat is only temporary.  The votes of the Senate, we are convinced, will be reversed before this session of Congress ends.  Our efforts to secure the reversal will begin at once and will continue until our victory in the House is confirmed in the Senate."



President Wilson

While concentrating on the intense negotiations for an armistice, the President has not been unaware of the approach of the mid-term Congressional elections.  On October 25, contrary to the advice of many of his advisers, he issued a public plea to American voters, asking “if you have approved of my leadership and wish me to continue to be your unembarrassed spokesman in affairs at home and abroad, I earnestly beg that you will express yourselves unmistakably to that effect by returning a Democratic majority to both the Senate and the House of Representatives.”  Republicans, most of whom have been firm supporters of the war from the beginning, are irate.  In a speech at Carnegie Hall on October 28, former President Roosevelt reminded his audience that the President had told Congress in May that “politics is adjourned” because of the war.  Now, he said, he is asking the American people not “for loyalty to the Nation” but “only for support of himself.”


*****



October 1918 – Selected Sources and Recommended Reading

Contemporary Periodicals:
American Review of Reviews, October and November 1918
New York Times, September and October 1918

Books and Articles:
A. Scott Berg, Wilson
Britain at War Magazine, The Fifth Year of the Great War: 1918
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
Kenneth S. Davis, FDR: The Beckoning of Destiny
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
W. Bruce Lincoln, Passage Through Armageddon: The Russians In War and Revolution 1914-1918
Robert K. Massie, Castles of Steel: Britain, Germany, and the Winning of the Great War at Sea
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 
Ted Morgan, FDR: A Biography
William Mulligan, The Great War for Peace
Michael S. Neiberg, The Path to War: How the First World War Created Modern America
Patricia O'Toole, The Moralist: Woodrow Wilson and the World He Made 
Edward J. Renehan, 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
David Stevenson, Cataclysm: The First World War As Political Tragedy 
David Stevenson, With Our Backs to the Wall: Victory and Defeat in 1918
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, A First Class Temperament: The Emergence of Franklin Roosevelt
Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns, The Roosevelts: An Intimate History
The West Point Atlas of War: World War I