Using the documents and your knowledge of this topic, evaluate the circumstances that led to the shift in the American position regarding entrance into World War I.



"My fellow countrymen: I suppose that every thoughtful man in America has asked himself, during these last troubled weeks, what influence the European War may exert upon the United States, and I take the liberty of addressing a few words to you in order to point out that it is entirely within our own choice what its’ effects upon us will be and to urge very earnestly upon you the sort of speech and conduct which will best safeguard the Nation against distress and disaster.

The effect of the war upon the United Sates will depend upon what American citizens say and do. Every man who really loves America will act and speak in the true spirit of neutrality, which is the spirit of impartiality and fairness and friendliness to all concerned. The spirit of the nation in this critical matter will be determined largely by what individuals and society and those gathered in public meetings do and say, upon what newspapers and magazines contain, upon what ministers utter at their pulpits, and men proclaim as their opinions on the street…"

Source:  President Woodrow Wilson, August 19, 1914--Message to U.S. Senate.



United States Exports to Europe 1910-1915
Numbers represent dollars (in millions)



          "In view of recent acts of the German authorities in violation of American rights on the high seas which culminated in the torpedoing and sinking of the British steamship Lusitania on May 7,1915, by which over 100 American citizens lost their lives, it is clearly wise and desirable that the government of the United States and the Imperial German Government should come to a clear and full understanding as to the grave situation which has resulted."

Source:  May13,1915- a letter from Secretary of State Lansing to United States Ambassador to Germany Gerard.




          "The present war must be ended; but we owe it to candor and to a just regard for the opinion of mankind to say that, so far as our participation in guarantees of future peace is concerned, it makes a great deal of difference in what way and upon what terms it is ended… it must be a peace without victory. Victory would mean peace forced upon the loser, a victor’s terms imposed upon the vanquished. It would be accepted humiliation, under duress, at an intolerable sacrifice, and would leave a sting, a resentment, a bitter memory upon which terms of peace would rest, not permanently but only as upon quicksand. Only a peace between equals can last. Only a peace the very principle of which is equality and a common participation in a common benefit. The right state of mind, the right feeling between nations, it is necessary for a lasting peace as is the just settlement of vexed questions of territory or of racial and national allegiance.

Source:  Woodrow Wilson- speech to U.S. Senate on January 22,1917.



          "On the first of February we intend to begin submarine warfare unrestricted. In spite of this it is our intention to keep neutral the United States of America. If this attempt is not successful we propose an alliance on the following basis with Mexico: That we shall make war together and together make peace. We shall give general financial support, and it is understood that Mexico is to reconquer the lost territory in New Mexico, Texas and Arizona. The details are left for your settlement. You are instructed to inform the President of Mexico of the above as soon as it is certain there will be an outbreak of war with the United States…Please call to the attention of the President of Mexico that the employment of ruthless submarine warfare now promises to compel England to make peace in a few months.

Source:  Note from German Foreign Secretary Arthur Zimmerman to German Ambassador to Mexico (written January 19,1917 in Berlin). Intercepted and released on March 1, 1917 by British Naval intelligence.



          "Neutrality is no longer feasible or desirable where the peace of the world is involved and the freedom of its peoples, and the menace to that peace and freedom lies in existence of autocratic governments backed by organized force which is controlled wholly by their will, not by the will of the people. We have seen the last of neutrality in these circumstances…the world must be made safe for democracy: its peace must be planted upon the tested foundation of liberty. We have no selfish ends to serve. We desire no conquest, no dominion. We seek no indemnities for ourselves, no material compensation for the sacrifices we shall freely make. We are but one of the champions of the rights of mankind. We shall be satisfied when those have been made as secure as the faith and the freedom of nations can make them."

Source:  Woodrow Wilson- speech to U.S. Senate on January 22,1917.



          " The failure to treat the belligerent nations of Europe alike, the failure to reject the unlawful "war zones" of both Germany and Great Britain is wholly unaccountable for our present dilemma. We should not seek to hide our blunder behind the smoke of battle, to inflame the minds of our people by half-truths into the frenzy of war in order that they may never appreciate the real cause until it is too late. I do not believe that our national honor is served by such a course. The right way is the honorable way. One alternative is to admit our initial blunder to enforce our rights against Great Britain as we have enforced our rights against Germany; demand that both those nations shall respect our neutral rights upon the high seas to the letter; and give notice that we will enforce those rights from that time forth against any belligerents and then live up to that notice. The other alternative is to withdraw our commerce from both. The mere suggestion that food supplies would be withdrawn from both sides impartially would compel belligerents to observe the principles of freedom of the seas for neutral commerce."

Source:  Senator Robert M. La Follette--address to the Senate on April 4, 1917.



Source:  Committee for public information poster-1917.



Johnnie get your gun, get your gun, get your gun,
Take it on the run, on the run, on the run;
Hear them calling you and me;
Every son of liberty.
Hurry right away, no delay, go today,
Make your daddy glad, to have such a lad,
Tell your sweetheart not to pine,
To be proud her boy’s in line.

Chorus: Over there, over there
Send the word, send the word over there,
The Yanks are coming, the Yanks are coming,
The drums rum-tum tumming everywhere
So prepare, say a prayer,
Send the word, send the word to beware,
We’ll be over, we’re coming over,
And we won’t come back till it’s over, over there.

Source:  "Over There," written by George M. Cohan
(Allied Expeditionary Force marching song).


DBQ Question created by:
Mr. Sean Farrell, student
Shoreham Wading River H. S. 
Shoreham NY 11786
created in:  April, 2000