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you to sit in judgment upon my decision to resign rather than to share responsibility for it.
I am sure you will credit me with honorable motives, but that is not enough. Good intentions could not atone for a mistake at such a time, on such a subject, and under such circumstances. If your verdict is against me 1 ask no mercy; 1 desire none if I have acted unwisely.
A man in public life must act according to his conscience, but, however conscientiously he acts, he must be prepared to accept without complaint any condemnation which his own errors may bring upon him; he must be willing to bear any deserved punishment, from ostracism to execution. But hear me before you pass sentence.
The President and 1 agree in purpose; we desire a peaceful solution of the dispute which has arisen between the United States and Germany. We not only desire it, but, with equal fervor, we pray for it; but we differ irreconcilably as to the means of securing it.
If it were merely a personal difference, it would be a matter of little moment, for all the presumptions are on his side—the presumptions that go with power and authority. He is your President, I am a private citizen without office or title—but one of the one hundred million of inhabitants.
But the real issue is not between persons, it is between systems, and I rely for vindication wholly upon the strength of the position taken.
Among the influences which governments employ in dealing with each other there are two which are preeminent and antagonistic—force and persuasion. Force speaks with firmness and acts through the ultimatum; persuasion employs argument, courts investigation, and depends upon negotiation. Force represents the old system—the system that must pass away; persuasion represents the new system—the system that has been growing, all too slowly, it is true, but growing for 1,900 years. In the old system war is the chief cornerstone—war, which at its best is little better than war at its worst; the new system contemplates an universal brotherhood established through the uplifting power of example.
If I correctly interpret the note to Germany, it conforms to the standards of the old system rather than to the rules of the new, and I cheerfully admit that it is abundantly supported by precedents—precedents written in characters of blood upon almost evezy page of human history. Austria furnishes the most recent precedent; it was Austria's firmness that dictated the ultimatum against Serbia, which set the world at war.
Every ruler now participating in this unparalleled conflict has proclaimed his desire for peace and denied responsibility for the war, and it is only charitable that we should credit all of them with good faith. They desired peace, but they sought it according to the rules of the old system. They believed that firmness would give the best assurance of the maintenance of peace, and, faithfully following precedent, they went so near the fire that they were, one after another, sucked into the contest.
Never before have the fiightful follies of this fatal system been so clearly revealed as now. The most civilized and enlightened—aye, the most Christian—of the nations of Europe are grappling with each other as if in a death struggle. They are sacrificing the best and bravest of their sons on the battlefield; they are converting their gardens into cemeteries and their homes into houses of mourning; they arc taxing the wealth of to-day and laying a burden of debt on the toil of the future; they have filled the air with thunder-bolte more deadly than those of Jove, and they have multiplied the perils of the deep.
Adding fresh fuel to the flame of hate, they have daily devised new horrors, until one side is endeavoring to drown noncombatant men, women, and children at sea, while the other side seeks to starve noncombatant men, women, and children on land. And they arc so absorbed in alternate retaliations and in competitive cruelties that they seem, for the time being, blind to the rights of neutrals and deaf to the appeals of humanity. A tree is known by its fruit. The war in Europe is the ripened fruit of the old system.
This is what firmness, supported by force, has done in the Old World; shall we invite it to cross the Atlantic? Already the jingoes of our own country have caught the rabies from the dogs of war; shall the opponents of organized slaughter be silent while the disease spreads?
As an humble follower of the Prince of Peace, as a devoted believer in the prophecy that "they that take the sword shall perish with the sword," I beg to be counted among those who earnestly urge the adoption of a course in this matter which will leave no doubt of our Government's willingness to continue negotiations with Germany until an amicable understanding is reached, or at least until, the stress of war over, we can appeal from Philip drunk with carnage to Philip-sobered by the memories of an historic friendship and by a recollection of the innumerable ties of kinship that bind the Fatherland to the United States.
Some nation must lead the world out of the black night of war into the light of that day when "swords shall be beaten into plowshares." Why not make that honor ours? Some day—why not now?—The nations will learn that enduring peace cannot be built upon fear—that good-will does not grow upon the stalk of violence. Some day the nations will place their trust in love, the weapon for which there is no shield; in love, that suffereth long and is kind; in love, that is not easily provoked, that beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things; in love, which, though despised as weakness by the worshippers of Mars, abideth when all else fails.'
Opinions differ as to the wisdom of Mr. Bryan's resignation, when he agreed with the President as to the object but differed only as to the means of carrying it into effect; and opinions likewise differ as to the propriety of explaining in detail his reasons for resigning at a time of great tension with Germany, and indeed before the Lusitania note which Mr. Bryan refused to sign had been received at Berlin or made public by either government. Without expressing any opinion on these difficult and perplexing questions, about which the wisest seem to differ, and without discussing the question raised by Mr. Bryan of the propriety of Americans traveling on belligerent ships or with cargoes of ammunition, it should be said, in fairness to Mr. Bryan, that he believed the Administration to be legally bound by the principle incorporated in the thirty
• The New York Times, Friday, June 11, 1915, page 1.
commission of inquiry treaties negotiated by him as Secretary of State, twenty-eight of which have been duly approved by the Senate and proclaimed by the President of the United States; and that the Administration was morally bound to apply the principle of the commission of inquiry treaties to disputes with other nations which, like Germany, were not parties to actual treaties, but had accepted them in principle. Regarding this contention there is also much difference of opinion; but again it should be said, in fairness to Mr. Bryan, that he accepted the Secretaryship of State with the understanding that he should negotiate commission of inquiry treaties with the Powers willing to conclude them, and that the authorization so to do influenced him to accept the Secretaryship of State, as Mr. Bryan has stated on more than one occasion to the writer of this editorial comment before the Lusitania incident occurred.
The commission of inquiry treaties are themselves the subject of much discussion. Many believe—and the writer of this comment shares the belief—that the treaties are very important documents, especially the series based upon the treaty between the Netherlands and the United States. That treaty, it will be recalled, provides that all disputes not covered by arbitration treaties or agreements, or not submitted to arbitration, shall, upon the failure of diplomacy, be submitted for investigation and report to a permanent commission of inquiry; that the international commission may, without the request of either government offer its services; that the governments shall furnish the international commission with the means and facilities required for its investigation and report; that the commission shall have a year in which to complete its report, unless the time be extended; and that the report when presented does not bind the nations to comply with its terms, as it is specifically stated in Article 3 of the treaty that "The high contracting parties reserve the right to act independently on the subject-matter of the dispute after the report of the commission shall have been submitted." That is to say, if treaties of arbitration exist, covering a particular dispute, then the controversy is to be arbitrated according to the treaty of arbitration, or if there be a treaty providing a different method of solution, then that method is to be followed. If, however, the disputes have not been actually referred to arbitration or the particular method followed agreed upon in other treaties, then the question is to be referred to the investigation and report of a commission whose composition is known in advance and whose members are appointed in advance of the controversy. The nations show their good faith by agreeing not to declare or to begin hostilities during the investigation or before the report is submitted, as it would be both a farce and a scandal to submit the question to the commission and, during the course of its investigation, to resort to arms. The report will only be complied with if public opinion forces compliance, and this can only be the case if the report itself is so carefully drafted and considered as to enlist public opinion in its behalf.
To those who believe that physical force both generates and sanctions law these treaties are sorry performances. To those who believe that public opinion both generates and sanctions law these treaties will seem to mark the beginning of a better day.
Mr. Bryan entered the Department of State to do a certain thing, and he did it. It is for time to determine whether it was worth doing and whether he did it well.
THE CONTROVERSY BETWEEN THE UNITED STATES AND GERMANY OVER THE USE OF SUBMARINES AGAINST MERCHANT VESSELS
Important questions of international law and humanity have been raised during the last few months by the repeated and relentless attacks of German submarine torpedo boats upon merchant vessels found within the war zone prescribed in the proclamation of the German admiralty of February 4,1915. While the whole civilized world has a vital interest in the solution of these questions, the United States, as the leading and most seriously affected neutral nation, has protested in a series of impressive and statesmanlike diplomatic documents, and has vigorously maintained the protest made to Germany against the carrying out of the threats against merchant shipping visiting the war zone as far as American ships and lives are concerned.
The German proclamation of February 4th announced that every enemy ship found within the war zone would be destroyed, that neutral ships found therein would be exposed to danger from accidents and from mistaken identity because of the misuse of neutral flags by enemy ships, and that the measures to make the proclamation effective would be carried out even if they endangered the lives of the passengers and crew. In the execution of the proclamation, several incidents have occurred which have brought Germany and the United States to the verge at least, of the severance of diplomatic relations.
On March 28, 1915, the British steamer Falaba with 160 passengers and 90 in the crew was sunk by a torpedo fired from a German submarine, resulting in the death of 111 of the persons on board, including one American.
On April 28th the American steamer Cushing, bound from Philadelphia to Rotterdam with a cargo of petroleum and oil, was bombarded by bombs from a German airship but apparently without effect, as the steamer was able to proceed to her destination.
On May 1st the American oil tank steamer Gulflight, bound from Port Arthur, Texas, to Rouen, France, was torpedoed by a German submarine, resulting in damage to the ship and the death of the captain and two of the crew. The steamer was subsequently taken into a British port.
On May 7th one of the largest passenger ships in the world, the British steamer Lusitania, was torpedoed while bound from New York to Liverpool with 1,959 persons on board, and sunk with a loss of over 1,198 souls, including 124 American citizens.
It will be noted that the German proclamation applied to both enemy and neutral vessels; that the destruction of the former was to be intentional and deliberate while the latter were warned against accidents from mines, as subsequently explained, and attacks by mistake. The foregoing incidents included the deliberate sinking by. torpedoes of belligerent merchant vessels, upon which American citizens were being carried as passengers, and attacks upon American vessels by a submarine and airships. Neither of the attacks upon the latter vessels could be attributed to accidental contact with mines, and in order to bring them within the provisions of the German warning, Germany alleged that they resulted from mistaken identity.
In the ensuing correspondence the United States has maintained that the high seas are free; that American citizens have a right to take their ships and to travel wherever their legitimate business calls them upon the high seas; and that the proclamation and warning issued by Germany cannot operate as in any degree an abbreviation of these rights. The United States refuses to admit that, unless a blockade is proclaimed and effectively maintained, a belligerent has any right to interfere with neutral vessels except to exercise the right of visit and search and to subject the vessel and cargo to the recognized legal consequences which follow the establishment through the process of visit and search of the belligerent nationality of the vessel or the contraband character of its