The Big Red One Goes to France

Sunday, May 21, AD 2017

 

President Wilson realized it would be many months before the US ground forces could be trained, equipped and shipped across the Atlantic in numbers sufficient to make a difference on the battlefields of France.  However, he also knew that Allied, and American, morale would soar with the news that the Americans had landed in France, no matter how many they were.  Thus on May 19, 1917 Wilson ordered that the First Expeditionary Division be formed, and that units of the Division sail to France as soon as possible.  Thus was born the First Infantry Division, the Big Red One.  By the end of the War the Division would incur casualties of 4,964 killed in action, 17,201 wounded in action, and 1,056 missing or died of wounds.  It would be the first Division to cross the Rhine into occupied Germany.  Five soldiers of the Division earned Medals of Honor during the War, out of a total of 92 earned by the Army.   The Big Red One has been in continuous service with the Army since its creation in 1917.

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May 18, 1917: Wilson Signs Selective Service Act of 1917

Thursday, May 18, AD 2017

 

The first draft imposed since the Civil War, the Selective Service Act of 1917, passed by overwhelming majorities in Congress, was signed by President Wilson a century ago.  The Act provided for the enlistment, at the discretion of the President, of the four volunteer divisions that Theodore Roosevelt planned to lead.  Go here to read about this provision.  Wilson, alarmed that Roosevelt would either be killed in France and he would be blamed, or that he would come back a national hero and be swept into the Presidency in 1920, would refuse to ever authorize the four volunteer divisions.  By the end of the War some 2 million Americans volunteered for service and some 2.8 million were drafted.

Individuals who belonged to religions or organizations opposed to War were exempted from combatant service but not from noncombatant service.  Members of the clergy were exempted from conscription as were seminarians.

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3 Responses to May 18, 1917: Wilson Signs Selective Service Act of 1917

  • In Europe, universal conscription was seen as the counterpart of universal suffrage and this concept was the reason that French women were denied the vote until 1945.

  • I remember when Jimmy Carter brought back draft registration way back in 1979. The USSR had invaded Afghanistan and Khomeini took over in Iran. The Army was short of its enlistment goals. I was more than a little scared of being drafted. After Reagan was elected, the Armed Forces began to exceed enlistment goals, if memory serves. I was quite a coward in my mid to late teens.

  • In Europe, universal conscription was seen as the counterpart of universal suffrage and this concept was the reason that French women were denied the vote until 1945.

    Women were not conscripted after 1945 and I’ll wager men disqualified for service were not ejected from the voter rolls prior to 1946. (In the United States, the cohorts wherein military service was most prevalent among men (born around 1922) still had a population of those disqualified and excused which accounted for 20% of the total). I seriously doubt that military service was the reason.

Fearless Freddie Dies

Tuesday, May 9, AD 2017

Frederick_Funston_001

All but forgotten today, Major General Frederick Funston would almost certainly would have led the American Expeditionary Force in World War I if he had not died at age 51 of a heart attack on February 19, 1917.  Nicknamed “Fearless Freddie” he was perhaps the most famous American soldier between the Civil War and World War I.  He had a very unique career.  Always in ill health, he was a physically small man, 5 foot, 5 inches, and throughout his life never weighed more than 120 pounds.  After failing an admissions test to West Point in 1884 he pursued a career in botany.  Tiring of the quiet life he enlisted in the Cuban Revolutionary Army fighting against Spain.  Contracting malaria his weight fell to an alarming 95 pounds and he was granted medical leave in the United States.

After the declaration of war against Spain he was commissioned colonel of the 20th Kansas Infantry.  Fighting against the Filipino Insurrection, he became a national hero by capturing the Filipino leader Emilio Aguinaldo.  A separate action earned him a Medal of Honor.  Playing a leading role in putting down the Insurrection, Funston came under attack by critics for the severe measures he took.  The pen of Mark Twain was enlisted against him:

If this Funstonian boom continues, Funstonism will presently affect the army. In fact, this has already happened. There are weak-headed and weak-principled officers in all armies, and these

are always ready to imitate successful notoriety-breeding methods, let them be good or bad. The fact that Funston has achieved notoriety by paralyzing the universe with a fresh and hideous

idea, is sufficient for this kind—they will call that hand if they can, and go it one better when the chance offers. Funston’s example has bred many imitators, and many ghastly additions to

our history: the torturing of Filipinos by the awful “watercure,” for instance, to make them confess—^what? Truth? Or lies ? How can one know which it is they are telling ? For under

unendurable pain a man confesses anything that is required of him, true or false, and his evidence is worthless. Yet upon such evidence American officers have actually—but you know about

those atrocities which the War Office has been hiding a year or two; and about General Smith’s now world-celebrated order of massacre—thus summarized by the press from Major Waller’s

testimony:

“Kill and burn—this is no time to take prisoners—the more you kill and burn, the better—Kill all above the age of ten—make Samar a howling

wilderness!

Funston was completely unrepentant:

I personally strung up thirty-five Filipinos without trial, so what was all the fuss over Waller’s ‘dispatching’ a few ‘treacherous savages’? If there had been more Smiths and Wallers, the war would have been over long ago. Impromptu domestic hanging might also hasten the end of the war. For starters, all Americans who had recently petitioned Congress to sue for peace in the Philippines should be dragged out of their homes and lynched.

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4 Responses to Fearless Freddie Dies

  • Sanity and actions of warriors…. rarely do they dance nicely together all the time. Depending, I suppose, on the amount of hand to hand in your face combat, one could easily become the savage he so desperately despises.
    The rarity are the likes of Desmond Doss. Heroism bordering the supernatural realm.

    As for Freddie? I wouldn’t want to be fighting against him. He would never run out of rope.

  • “As for Freddie? I wouldn’t want to be fighting against him. He would never run out of rope.”

    That is a very safe statement!

  • You want to really have some fun? Here in the Most Perfect and Highly Intellectual Society :roll:, San Francisco, Fort Funston is a park and part of the Golden Gate Natl Recreation Area:

    https://www.nps.gov/goga/planyourvisit/fortfunston.htm

    If they only knew they were desecrating their feet with a memorial to Funston, what would our dear safe-place friends do?

  • 👿 You know, this article, if forwarded to the City and County of the Most Perfect Society, would cause an uproar.

April 2, 1917: Wilson Asks Congress to Declare War on Germany

Sunday, April 2, AD 2017

Gentlemen of the Congress:

I have called the Congress into extraordinary session because there are serious, very serious, choices of policy to be made, and made immediately, which it was neither right nor constitutionally permissible that I should assume the responsibility of making.

On the 3d of February last I officially laid before you the extraordinary announcement of the Imperial German Government that on and after the 1st day of February it was its purpose to put aside all restraints of law or of humanity and use its submarines to sink every vessel that sought to approach either the ports of Great Britain and Ireland or the western coasts of Europe or any of the ports controlled by the enemies of Germany within the Mediterranean. That had seemed to be the object of the German submarine warfare earlier in the war, but since April of last year the Imperial Government had somewhat restrained the commanders of its undersea craft in conformity with its promise then given to us that passenger boats should not be sunk and that due warning would be given to all other vessels which its submarines might seek to destroy, when no resistance was offered or escape attempted, and care taken that their crews were given at least a fair chance to save their lives in their open boats. The precautions taken were meagre and haphazard enough, as was proved in distressing instance after instance in the progress of the cruel and unmanly business, but a certain degree of restraint was observed The new policy has swept every restriction aside. Vessels of every kind, whatever their flag, their character, their cargo, their destination, their errand, have been ruthlessly sent to the bottom without warning and without thought of help or mercy for those on board, the vessels of friendly neutrals along with those of belligerents. Even hospital ships and ships carrying relief to the sorely bereaved and stricken people of Belgium, though the latter were provided with safe-conduct through the proscribed areas by the German Government itself and were distinguished by unmistakable marks of identity, have been sunk with the same reckless lack of compassion or of principle.

I was for a little while unable to believe that such things would in fact be done by any government that had hitherto subscribed to the humane practices of civilized nations. International law had its origin in the at tempt to set up some law which would be respected and observed upon the seas, where no nation had right of dominion and where lay the free highways of the world. By painful stage after stage has that law been built up, with meagre enough results, indeed, after all was accomplished that could be accomplished, but always with a clear view, at least, of what the heart and conscience of mankind demanded. This minimum of right the German Government has swept aside under the plea of retaliation and necessity and because it had no weapons which it could use at sea except these which it is impossible to employ as it is employing them without throwing to the winds all scruples of humanity or of respect for the understandings that were supposed to underlie the intercourse of the world. I am not now thinking of the loss of property involved, immense and serious as that is, but only of the wanton and wholesale destruction of the lives of noncombatants, men, women, and children, engaged in pursuits which have always, even in the darkest periods of modern history, been deemed innocent and legitimate. Property can be paid for; the lives of peaceful and innocent people can not be. The present German submarine warfare against commerce is a warfare against mankind.

It is a war against all nations. American ships have been sunk, American lives taken, in ways which it has stirred us very deeply to learn of, but the ships and people of other neutral and friendly nations have been sunk and overwhelmed in the waters in the same way. There has been no discrimination. The challenge is to all mankind. Each nation must decide for itself how it will meet it. The choice we make for ourselves must be made with a moderation of counsel and a temperateness of judgment befitting our character and our motives as a nation. We must put excited feeling away. Our motive will not be revenge or the victorious assertion of the physical might of the nation, but only the vindication of right, of human right, of which we are only a single champion.

When I addressed the Congress on the 26th of February last, I thought that it would suffice to assert our neutral rights with arms, our right to use the seas against unlawful interference, our right to keep our people safe against unlawful violence. But armed neutrality, it now appears, is impracticable. Because submarines are in effect outlaws when used as the German submarines have been used against merchant shipping, it is impossible to defend ships against their attacks as the law of nations has assumed that merchantmen would defend themselves against privateers or cruisers, visible craft giving chase upon the open sea. It is common prudence in such circumstances, grim necessity indeed, to endeavour to destroy them before they have shown their own intention. They must be dealt with upon sight, if dealt with at all. The German Government denies the right of neutrals to use arms at all within the areas of the sea which it has proscribed, even in the defense of rights which no modern publicist has ever before questioned their right to defend. The intimation is conveyed that the armed guards which we have placed on our merchant ships will be treated as beyond the pale of law and subject to be dealt with as pirates would be. Armed neutrality is ineffectual enough at best; in such circumstances and in the face of such pretensions it is worse than ineffectual; it is likely only to produce what it was meant to prevent; it is practically certain to draw us into the war without either the rights or the effectiveness of belligerents. There is one choice we can not make, we are incapable of making: we will not choose the path of submission and suffer the most sacred rights of our nation and our people to be ignored or violated. The wrongs against which we now array ourselves are no common wrongs; they cut to the very roots of human life.

With a profound sense of the solemn and even tragical character of the step I am taking and of the grave responsibilities which it involves, but in unhesitating obedience to what I deem my constitutional duty, I advise that the Congress declare the recent course of the Imperial German Government to be in fact nothing less than war against the Government and people of the United States; that it formally accept the status of belligerent which has thus been thrust upon it, and that it take immediate steps not only to put the country in a more thorough state of defense but also to exert all its power and employ all its resources to bring the Government of the German Empire to terms and end the war.

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32 Responses to April 2, 1917: Wilson Asks Congress to Declare War on Germany

  • My point of view is that Germany is responsible for both world wars. We know the other factors and other parties involved, who voted the first shots of the ward, but Germany jumped in anyway.

  • Well, this ex-Rangers Devils fan has a different and somewhat revisionist view, and will start with what some would consider an outrageous premise; the wrong side won the Great War!
    Now, Germany was responsible for ‘II,’ but certainly not for ‘I.’ To make this long, convoluted story short, let’s just look at three things. One; though the pretend Kaiser, to paraphrase Q.Victoria, was a petulant child, we must ask, did he ever follow through on any of his bombastic demands? No! In one crisis after another, if I remember correctly, he backed down, as in Morroco, and even after equally bombastic threats from T.Roosevelt about Samoa. Second, the assassination of the pro-Slav Franz Ferdinand was planned in Belgrade, which got its backbone from the aggrandizing pan-Slavism of Tsar Nicholas, pushed by the French to get involved in defending ‘poor Servia,’ a sponsor of political terrorism in the guise of Slavic nationalism, from which all of the other mobilizations stemmed. Third, that lying bigot Wilson, like all ‘progressives,’ believed in honest brokering and negotiation, except when he didn’t, like refusing to treat with the crowned heads of the Central Powers, destroying political legitimacy directly paving the way for Hitler. Yes, reasoning individuals can lay blame for the calamity caused by Versailles directly at the feet of Woodrow Wilson; you know, the guy who brought segregation to the federal bureaucracy and encouraged Jim Crow, and forced Hoover to deny food to Hungary if they allowed (real) Kaiser Karl to assume his rightful throne as King there.
    Over simplified, yes; and though I had relatives fighting in King George’s service, to (control laughter) “make the world safe for democracy,” the Allies victory because of American money and manpower, with Wilson’s duplicitous conduct and the political turmoil that resulted, made a second war, if not inevitable, at least a definite possibility.
    One of my great uncles saw in Eastern Europe that all men had the right to vote in all those constitutional monarchies that made up the Central Powers…well, except Turkey, while he, because he hadn’t owned a home, could not vote, but could spill his blood for those who could. He was the first of my relatives to leave Britain without a look back; something that did not sink in until I read history years later, and had a girlfriend/wife of Hungarian descent who had more distant relatives who fought for the ‘other side.’ This altered my views of the ‘victor’s narrative when studying that last bastion of catholic culture and responsible, benevolent, catholic-inspired governing, Austria-Hungary. Not perfect to be sure, but, how’s it working here???
    Almost sorry for that….OK, let the games begin….

  • “we must ask, did he ever follow through on any of his bombastic demands?”

    Yes, the blank check he gave Austria against Serbia.

    “Second, the assassination of the pro-Slav Franz Ferdinand was planned in Belgrade, which got its backbone from the aggrandizing pan-Slavism of Tsar Nicholas”

    Elements in the military were involved, but not the Serbian civilian government. In any case beginning a general European War over it was a horrendous overreaction.

    “Third, that lying bigot Wilson, like all ‘progressives,’ believed in honest brokering and negotiation, except when he didn’t, like refusing to treat with the crowned heads of the Central Powers”

    Wilson had called for negotiations since the beginning of the War. Neither side was interested.

    “One of my great uncles saw in Eastern Europe that all men had the right to vote in all those constitutional monarchies that made up the Central Powers…”

    Assuming your great uncle was a Brit, universal male suffrage was granted in 1918 for men over 21 and women over 30. In regard to Germany, the Reichstag had little say over foreign policy and the making of wars. Hitler’s rule by emergency decree was pioneered in Germany in World War I.

  • I will never understand how civilized/cultured Europe permitted itself to be immolated in the insane violence of WWI.

    America took sides early on. Of course, “neutral” America didn’t sell/ship foodstuffs and munitions to Austria and Germany because the elites/establishment “knew” the British would stop/seize neutral American ships on the high seas. But, the bosses sold to Britain and France. It was commerce not belligerency/personal – See “The Godfather.” So, in April 1917, the casus belli was, among other casi belli, German submarines torpedoing US ships carrying war supplies/munitions to Rule Britannia and the umpty-umphth French Republic. “I see.” said the blind man. Easy solution and alternative to war: ship munitions and war supplies in British/French vessels. No good. The fix was in.

    Here is one explanation for my first paragraph quandary. Consider the likelihood that most nations are led by imbeciles. It took the idiots running America until 1917 to get into the war. And, then the too-powerful, incompetent “geniuses” fouled up the peace sowing the seeds of a more bitter conflagration in 1939.

    FYI – Britain and France never paid for much of that stuff. Of $10 billion in allies’ war debts, the US eventually collected about $2.75 billion. And, the loss was greater because the interest collected was far below the agreed-upon amounts. FYI FYI – The US government and private financiers “financed” much of the British/French war efforts – mostly they didn’t pay cash.

    Only tiny Finland repaid according to terms. But, that debt was different.

  • Consider the likelihood that most nations are led by imbeciles.

    I’m not. It’s a stupid thought.

  • “So, in April 1917, the casus belli was, among other casi belli, German submarines torpedoing US ships”

    The German policy was to sink all neutral shipping, without warning, including passenger liners, no matter what they were carrying. Then we have the little matter of Imperial Germany attempting to incite war between the US and Mexico with several states as bait. The US had ample reason to declare war on Germany and like Theodore Roosevelt I regret that it took the US such a long time to do so. American intervention in 1915 might well have led to Allied victory prior to the Bolsheviks seizing power in Russia in November 1917.

  • I apologize in advance.

    It seems many don’t believe in God, but believe in unlimited government (to solve problems), In fact, unlimited government can lead to unlimited sorrows.

    Art, Not so “stupid thought.” I can name a number of apocalyptic, ticking time-bombs the Bushes, Clintons, Obama (not to mention Wilson, Hoover, Coolidge, FDR, HST, JFK ) inflicted on America.

    Don, more evidence that Imperial Germany was run by idiots. And, Imperial Brit Naval policy was to stop/seize all shipping to Germany. Did all the neutral nations also declare war on Imperial Germany?

    My real-world experiences are with (low-level) military and financial matters. The more you know, the more you understand (I think Aristotle wrote that, too) that it is little that you “know.” Go figure. Right? The arrogant people running the place never listen to guys like me. Your loss.

    Art, a reading recommendation. It’s not just me. It seems it’s also Henry Kaufman, PhD.

    3 April 2017 Barron’s: “Dr. Doom’s Diagnosis” by Randall W. Forsyth: Henry Kaufman new book, Tectonic Shifts in Financial Markets: People, Policies, and Institutions. N.B. Anybody younger than 35 years-old only has experienced disinflation and falling interest rates.

    The foolishness of policy-makers and market participants led to the recent financial crisis and its long-running aftermath. Einstein’s definition of insanity: “the Fed has attained an unprecedented prominence – precisely because of its past policy failures.” Greenspan and Bernanke failed to note deep changes in financial markets – securitization; repeal of Glass-Steagall; increased concentration of markets – handful of megabanks dominate. Dodd-Frank worsened the concentration of financial risks – far more fragile financial system and more dependent on the idiotic Fed. Without the slightest understanding of the real world, just a slavish devotion to their theoretical models.

    The next financial markets catastrophe is festering, while the Fed, Congress, UST, etc. are not only clueless, but (infallibly ignorant) they are making it worse.

  • Don, I disagree with your spin, but it’s understandable as that’s what we were taught way back when. I mentioned Kaiser Bill not following through on his threats prior to 1914, and you respond with the comment about giving the real Kaiser a blank check. That does not follow, but we can agree to disagree. In any case what about honoring its commitment to Austria-Hungary against the Tsar’s mobilization? No matter what Germany did, Austria was justified in seeking redress against Serbia. We can debate that the smarter course for KFJ would have been to accept Serbia’s positive response to all but one of his demands. However, there is no proof that the civilian government was not complicit in the assassination, as they had been actively fomenting trouble in Bosnia since the bloody coup in Belgrade in 1903 against the ruling house which had been Austria’s ally; such friendship was not something Serbian nationalism could abide. And, starting a war was not something Vienna did lightly, needing Germany’s guarantee of help in anticipation of Russia’s aggrandizing meddling. As I said, the smarter course, in hindsight, was not taken as they felt the threat would only continue.
    Your comment about Wilson’s unheeded call for negotiations is flat out wrong. Kaiser Karl tried to broker peace status quo ante on at least two occasions beginning with his accession to his throne, while Wilson ran his campaign on “he kept us out of war,” which sentiments ended quite soon after the election, though obviously made all the easier by Germany’s desperate blunders. You forgot about Karl’s cause for sainthood?
    I see you didn’t respond to my comments about Wilson’s racism….
    I did say my veteran great uncle left Britain, so yes, he was a Brit. As for the extension of the franchise, that was December, 1917, a month after the armistice; so again, he fought for the King without having the right to vote.
    You also ignored my mentioning the catholicity of Austria-Hungary, but that makes it easier to see that country and Imperial Germany as the collective source of all 20th century woes….
    Your comments about the Weimar Reichstag and Chancellor Hitler’s rule by decree have no bearing at all on the Wilhelmine assembly of the same name, which in fact did have “…say over foreign policy and making wars.” They just had a lot of trouble contending with a dope of a head of state. “…(P)ioneered in World War I,” could be, should be, changed to ‘…in Versailles.’
    Thanks for this venue!

  • oops, December, 1918!!!

  • “Don, I disagree with your spin, but it’s understandable as that’s what we were taught way back when. I”

    My “spin” Jim is called historical facts.

    “I mentioned Kaiser Bill not following through on his threats prior to 1914, and you respond with the comment about giving the real Kaiser a blank check.”

    No, you posited that the Kaiser was a paper tiger because he backed down in regard to some foreign crises prior to 1914 and I pointed out the historical fact that in 1914 the Kaiser gave a blank check to Austria Hungary in making war against Serbia and that he did not back down from that disastrous decision. That monumental blunder of course turned a crisis in the Balkans into World War I.

    “No matter what Germany did, Austria was justified in seeking redress against Serbia.”

    Without the blank check of the Kaiser that redress would never have included War. Serbia in its response to the Austrian ultimatum went very far to appease Austria, as far as a nation could go and still remain independent:

    https://wwi.lib.byu.edu/index.php/The_Serbian_Response_to_the_Austro-Hungarian_Ultimatum_(English_translation)

    “Your comment about Wilson’s unheeded call for negotiations is flat out wrong. Kaiser Karl tried to broker peace status quo ante on at least two occasions beginning with his accession to his throne, while Wilson ran his campaign on “he kept us out of war,” which sentiments ended quite soon after the election, though obviously made all the easier by Germany’s desperate blunders. You forgot about Karl’s cause for sainthood?”

    Once again Jim, historical facts are stubborn things. Go to the link below to read about the American peace initiatives to end the War through negotiations.

    http://encyclopedia.1914-1918-online.net/article/peace_initiatives

    “I see you didn’t respond to my comments about Wilson’s racism…”

    I’ve written about Wilson’s racism before on this blog several times. I didn’t respond because Wilson was a racist and it had bupkis to do with the foreign policies he pursued in regard to World War I.

    “As for the extension of the franchise, that was December, 1917, a month after the armistice; so again, he fought for the King without having the right to vote.”

    Yes, and the right to vote was extended universally primarily as a thank you to the Brits who fought in World War I.

    “You also ignored my mentioning the catholicity of Austria-Hungary, but that makes it easier to see that country and Imperial Germany as the collective source of all 20th century woes….”

    Not all the woes, but a heaping helping of blame for starting World War I. Once again historical fact is historical fact.

    “Your comments about the Weimar Reichstag and Chancellor Hitler’s rule by decree have no bearing at all on the Wilhelmine assembly of the same name, which in fact did have “…say over foreign policy and making wars.””

    No they did not. The Reichstag did not even appoint the government, that being the prerogative of the Kaiser. Imperial Germany was a far cry from being anything like a democracy and it became progressively less so as World War I went on. By 1916 Germany was effectively a military dictatorship with the Kaiser reduced to a figurehead.

    http://karmak.org/archive/2003/01/history/silentdict.html

  • OK, lots in there, many unequivocal remarks which just repeat the standard “victors’ narrative” certainly open to other interpretations….
    No, you posited that the Kaiser was a paper tiger because he backed down in regard to some foreign crises prior to 1914 and I pointed out the historical fact that in 1914 the Kaiser gave a blank check to Austria Hungary in making war against Serbia and that he did not back down from that disastrous decision. That monumental blunder of course turned a crisis in the Balkans into World War I.
    To repeat, I stated that prior to 1914, KW did not follow through on his threats. The Aug.’14 guarantee to AH was not a public threat. Come on; you can’t see the inaccuracy of your characterization?
    The link to the Serbian response, with which anyone who studies Eastern European history is familiar, proves nothing. It was standard, diplomatic ‘plausible deniability’ which any gov’t would provide in similar circumstances.
    Once again Jim, historical facts are stubborn things. Go to the link below to read about the American peace initiatives to end the War through negotiations.
    You did read that link, no? Does it not mention KK’s peace initiative of 1916? I never denied that Wilson attempted to negotiate peace, I merely disputed your unequivocal statement that no other powers were interested.
    I partly concede your points re: Wilson’s bigotry. However, his anti-monarchist views did affect his later actions leading up to Versailles, but only against the Central Powers and not the monarchies with which he was allied.
    Yes, and the right to vote was extended universally primarily as a thank you to the Brits who fought in World War I.
    How does that refute what I asserted? Really…well, I’ll just leave it at that….
    No they did not. The Reichstag did not even appoint the government, that being the prerogative of the Kaiser. Imperial Germany was a far cry from being anything like a democracy and it became progressively less so as World War I went on. By 1916 Germany was effectively a military dictatorship with the Kaiser reduced to a figurehead.
    A lot in there too. I ask, does our Congress ‘appoint the gov’t?’ That is the prerogative of the President, no? Many educated people are unfamiliar with the confederation of constitutional monarchies and free cities which comprised, their official term, “The Associated Governments of the German Empire. Imperial Germany WAS NOT a ‘far cry….’ The fact that martial law was declared during the war doesn’t change the state of affairs prior to bungling their way into it. I seem to remember we may have had some martial law here some 150 years ago….I agree that the Kaiser became a figurehead, and the Reichstag a mere rubber stamp for the military gov’t. But that doesn’t change the fact that Imperial Germany was a technically a democratic polity, though we can debate the extent of such democracy.

  • Jim, nothing you say can change my mind. Long time readers of this blog know I frequently blather about things Polish.

    The Germans were nasty and brutal to the Polish who lived under German rule. So were the Russians, but that’s a different discussion. Kaiser Bill referred to Poles as dogs who should just die.

    No, the wrong side did not win. No, Wilson was not wrong to join the war on the side of the British and French. The Germans have a history of being nasty to their neighbors before and after World War I. If anybody needed to have their rear ends handed to them it was the Germans.

    The time for empires was coming to an end. Much loved by radtrads, the Hapsburgs ruled over people who longed to be rid of their rule.

    The Hungarians, Czechs, Slovaks, Poles and Lithuanians regained their right of self rule after World War I. They lost it due to the Germans putting Hitler in power – a deed of their own choosing, and the Germans in WWI backing Lenin to overthrow the Czar with a communist dictatorship.

    I have German ancestry. I’m not proud of it.

  • Hey Fan,
    I obviously don’t expect to change minds directly, but just to push them to see a different perspective. Now, my main thrust was in favor of Austria-Hungary, and basically stated that Imperial Germany was not responsible for the war. You mentioned how terribly the Germans treated Poles, and mentioned some diatribe attributed to KW. Is it actually true? I did read that many, many years ago, but I believe it’s on the same vein as “let them eat cake’ falsely attributed to Marie Antoinette. I ask, when exactly did this alleged persecution occur? After the failed 1830 revolt against Tsar Nick I when Poles sought and received refuge in Prussia? I am no apologist for protestant Prussia, but too many of the Junkers were of Polish blood for me to believe, in the absence of evidence, any widespread anti-Polish persecutions. You say Germans have a history of being nasty; which Germans? Before 1866, there were about 40 independent polities in “Germany.” Now Prussia did maneuver two wars to gain suzerainty over what later became the one Germany over all the other Germanies, but can you enlighten me as to this nastiness you refer too? Hey, I don’t have all the answers….
    You said the time for empires was coming to an end…just the monarchical ones? The standard view post-Great War is just as you characterized, and what we were taught in public school. However, the sentiments calling for breaking up the Habsburg empire were no where near as widespread as we’re spoon fed. All the people in eastern Europe did not long for the end of Habsburg rule. Some did of course. But, even Freud was a supporter of the Habsburgs(but how that serves my point I…?). If you’re familiar with Hungarian history, you’ll know that it was an independent nation which shared a head of state and national defense with Austria. However, that independent nation would not grant autonomy to the Slavs in its borders, to the consternation of Franz Ferdinand, and an issue Franz Josef didn’t want to press in fear of upsetting the Ausgleich.
    As for the Germans putting Hitler in power, yeah they did, just like we put Obama in power.
    But it should be remembered that Wilson delegitimized the various governments of the German states, leaving a power vacuum the Weimar construct could not fill. We could argue other points about Hitler’s campaign for seats in the Reichstag, but that’s a bit away from my original premise….
    There is much to loathe and laud about Germans and Germany, much like any other
    people. That Holocaust thing does cause pause though…! All any nationality can do is go forward with Christian/CATHOLIC virtue, forgive sins of the past, but not forget how easy it is to fall….
    Thanks PenFan; my oldest son is one like you…I might root for them again like last year given how well my team has done…again. Cheers!

  • “To repeat, I stated that prior to 1914, KW did not follow through on his threats. The Aug.’14 guarantee to AH was not a public threat. Come on; you can’t see the inaccuracy of your characterization?”

    Not at all. Absent the Kaiser’s blank check to Austria Hungary, and his constant prodding for Austria to attack Serbia, Austria would not have dared to declare war on Serbia. What is irrelevant is your citing foreign policy crises where the Kaiser backed down in reference to the 1914 crisis in which he did not.

    “The link to the Serbian response, with which anyone who studies Eastern European history is familiar, proves nothing.”

    No, it amply demonstrates that Serbia was going the extra mile to satisfy Austria. Absent a declaration that the Serbians would be henceforth slaves of Austria, I don’t know what more the Serbian government could have done and retain its independence.

    “I merely disputed your unequivocal statement that no other powers were interested.”

    Oh Germany was interested if a negotiated peace meant that they could retain their conquests in the East and/or their conquests in the West. The Allies were never going to agree to that,

    “How does that refute what I asserted? Really…well, I’ll just leave it at that….”

    The Allies contended that they were fighting a war for democracy against an autocratic power seeking to dominate Europe. Making the franchise universal in Great Britain for men certainly went along with that war aim.

    “I ask, does our Congress ‘appoint the gov’t?’ That is the prerogative of the President, no?”

    Who is elected by the people. The Imperial German government had no such Democratic base but were rather appointees of the Kaiser.

    “The fact that martial law was declared during the war doesn’t change the state of affairs prior to bungling their way into it.”

    What happened in Imperial Germany in World War I was not martial law but rather martial rule.

    Good debate Jim! As faithful readers of this blog know, I live for good debates on historical topics.

  • It’s a reasonable judgment that the Wilson Administration was foolish to promote the disestablishment of the German monarchies, but the political landscape had turned to quicksand and it’s a reasonable wager they’d have evaporated anyway. The National People’s Party was the only inter-war configuration which was monarchist in outlook. The National People’s Party was good for about 20% of the vote during its heyday, so you cannot say there was strong public revulsion contra republican institutions. As for the Hapsburg Monarchy, it fell to pieces rapidly and spontaneously, and Hungary’s monarchists explicitly ruled out a Hapsburg restoration.

    All the participants in the 1st World War counted as constitutional states in 1914. Russian and Ottoman institutions were fledgling and weak and neither Russian nor Ottoman political practice was impressive. Different business in Germany and the Hapsburg dominions.

  • Good debate Jim! As faithful readers of this blog know, I live for good debates on historical topics.
    Indeed! But, with all due respect, we should get the history right, no? Or maybe acknowledge that another vantage point that refutes the propaganda history is valid? Repeating the misrepresentations which we were subjected to in grade school do not suffice. “Not at all. Absent the Kaiser’s blank check to Austria Hungary, and his constant prodding for Austria to attack Serbia, Austria would not have dared to declare war on Serbia. What is irrelevant is your citing foreign policy crises where the Kaiser backed down in reference to the 1914 crisis in which he did not.”
    Don, you have that backwards. It was Russia’s interference which gave Vienna pause (though the veterans of the Serbian Army should have as well!) and the necessity of German support in case the Tsar mobilized before they did, which is what happened. I cited Bill’s empty threats and capitulations to illustrate that Germany’s so-called quest for domination is a chimera. Do you honestly think that any supposed prodding to resist Serbia was the dominating feature of the Triple Alliance? You’re again repeating the same misrepresentations. Berlin knew that any outright aggressive action against Serbia would involve Russia, and thence them; something they did not want as it would then result in a general war that both Vienna and Berlin knew they could not win if their initial military moves were unsuccessful. They were deathly afraid of what they called the ‘materiel schlact.’ Russia’s meddling confirmed the need for Germany to back Austria.
    “No, it amply demonstrates that Serbia was going the extra mile to satisfy Austria. Absent a declaration that the Serbians would be henceforth slaves of Austria, I don’t know what more the Serbian government could have done and retain its independence.”
    Again, a distorted view of Austria’s Balkan policy. They did not want more nationalists in their supranational confederation; only relief from nationalist agitation. Yes, those war mongers were at the last given pride of place by a tired Franz Josef, who did not trust that Serbia would really do anything to those responsible as they permeated the Serbian gov’t, something I referred to previously. I agree that Serbia acceded to all they could, and Austria would have been wiser to accept that and avoid a conflict their intransigence ensured. Russia’s mobilization guaranteed a wider war.
    “Oh Germany was interested if a negotiated peace meant that they could retain their conquests in the East and/or their conquests in the West. The Allies were never going to agree to that,”
    Again, Kaiser Karl wanted status quo ante; something you continually ignore as it disproves your initial comment. As for this one quoted here, you seem to forget that Allied war aims, especially perfidious Italy’s, was more responsible for putting an end to possible negotiations. As I mentioned, try to present the whole history. Yes, the German military was committed to justifying its expense in manpower and resources, just as the Allies were. Bad actors on both sides, to the exclusion of Austria-Hungary, which abandoned any war aims and was the only honest ‘player’ from 1916 on.
    “The Allies contended that they were fighting a war for democracy against an autocratic power seeking to dominate Europe. Making the franchise universal in Great Britain for men certainly went along with that war aim.”
    Come on, that is disingenuous. The Allies’ propaganda war aim doesn’t make that in any way true. Germany and Austria-Hungary were constitutional monarchies with universal, secret suffrage. Britain was not until Dec, 1918. I don’t know how you justify propaganda that contradicts well-known facts; well, known to everyone outside Britain, Canada, and the USA….
    “Who is elected by the people. The Imperial German government had no such Democratic base but were rather appointees of the Kaiser.”
    How many times must I repeat that every country in Europe which was not a republic was a constitutional monarchy. You don’t have to believe that ‘world safe for democracy LIE!!! Even the Tsar accepted such in 1908 with the establishment of the Duma. Was that also not democratic? Really, it was only in 1911 that Commons asserted ‘overlordship’ of Lords. Man…I don’t know what about universal (male) suffrage electing parliaments advising and consenting to expenditures you think constitutes tyranny of the Kaiser. Just because a head of state is not elected does not mean that the rest of the popularly elected gov’t exercising such powers is not an example of some sort of democracy. You forget that the Kaiser had the other crowned heads, represented in the Bundesrat, to deal with. Yes, he had executive control, but he had constraints on action; too bad there were none on his mouth….
    “What happened in Imperial Germany in World War I was not martial law but rather martial rule.”
    Mainly semantics, but I certainly don’t dispute that the ‘rule’ assumed by the Prussian General Staff was as you stated, which controlled all aspects of life because of the privations of war that were only equaled in Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria, and not by the Allies; though it got close in Britain until the convoy system was begun.
    Art Deco’s post is one you should consider as well. I would only posit that political legitimacy is something that cannot be easily regained once the existing regime is forced out. Just look at how Iraq turned out. Anyway, I’m not so sure that the various monarchies of the German states would have evaporated that easily. Despite the propaganda, those monarchs were ‘popular’ with their subjects. What happened in Vienna was more complicated, and not easily explained because there was no homogeneity in population, and as was indicated, Wilson refused to negotiate with any crowned head.
    Don, many thanks again for your venue. It’s exceedingly nice of you to allow all of us would-be pundits to share your stage show!!!

  • “Berlin knew that any outright aggressive action against Serbia would involve Russia, and thence them; something they did not want as it would then result in a general war that both Vienna and Berlin knew they could not win if their initial military moves were unsuccessful. They were deathly afraid of what they called the ‘materiel schlact.’ Russia’s meddling confirmed the need for Germany to back Austria.”

    Kaiser Bill personally gave Austria the blank check on July 5, 1914.

    http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/germany-gives-austria-hungary-blank-check-assurance

    Along with his continual prodding of Austria to get on with it and attack Serbia, the Kaiser’s blank check guaranteed war with Russia and France.

    “Again, Kaiser Karl wanted status quo ante; something you continually ignore as it disproves your initial comment.”

    That poor, hapless dilettante had nothing to say about meaningful peace negotiations. Germany was in control of their alliance and Austria only maintained its existence courtesy of the Imperial Germany Army. Whatever his private virtues, Kaiser Karl, who came to throne in November of 1916 was a disaster as a monarch. His secret peace overture was revealed and he lied about his involvement. Clemenceau published letters showing his involvement. After that, nothing more was attempted by him until October 14, 1918 when Germany was about to toss in the towel in any case. His destiny was to lead Austria to defeat and the dissolution of the empire, and he fulfilled that destiny. The admiration that some Catholics have for Karl as a public figure eludes me, since as the leader of a nation he was a complete failure, albeit he inherited a very bad situation.

    “Germany and Austria-Hungary were constitutional monarchies with universal, secret suffrage.”

    Austria-Hungary was a prison house of nations that wanted independence from the dual monarchy, except for the two nations in the saddle, the Austrians and the Hungarians. Germany had a weak Reichstag that had no control over government policy as demonstrated during the War. German rule over Belgium and Occupied France set standards for abuse of civilian populations that those more innocent times were rightly shocked by. They were not much by the standards of sheer horror set by the Third Reich two decades later, but rule of enemy populations under the Prussian Eagle was grim enough.

    “How many times must I repeat that every country in Europe which was not a republic was a constitutional monarchy.”

    When most Americans think of a constitutional monarchy they think of Great Britain where the monarch is a figure head. That was not the case in Imperial Germany except, ironically, during the latter half of World War I when the Kaiser was reduced to being a figure head. If the Reichstag had established the government in 1914, along the lines of Parliament in Great Britain, I doubt if there would have been a World War since I can’t imagine any civilian government set up through the Reichstag having given Austria a blank check.

    “Don, many thanks again for your venue. It’s exceedingly nice of you to allow all of us would-be pundits to share your stage show!!!”

    Thank you Jim. That is why my favorite part of this blog are the comboxes.

  • I have a piece of History in form of a 1915 2 Dinar Serbian coin. I received it from my father (RIP). I had believed (Cyrillic letters) it was a czarist Russian coin,, except face is not Czar Nicholas. I “googled” it. It is a king (?) named Peter I, who bears some resemblance to Stalin. It is 10 grams of .835 silver and (melt value) worth $4.81, possibly about $20 to a collector.

    I also have (from Dad) a 1917 Lee Enfield Mark II .303 caliber, which kicks like a mule, and a box of shells. I was to find a bayonet, but . . .

  • Austria-Hungary was a prison house of nations that wanted independence from the dual monarchy, except for the two nations in the saddle, the Austrians and the Hungarians.

    In the general elections held prior to the war, ethnic particularist parties cadged about 10% of the vote in Hungary and 17% in the rest of the Empire. They weren’t politically separatist in an unambiguous way, either. The situation in 1918-19 was quite protean and events took a course that would have been scarcely imaginable a decade earlier in either the Hapsburg or Hohenzollern realms.
    Germany had a weak Reichstag that had no control over government policy as demonstrated during the War.

    It’s very strange to characterize a country’s political order by what goes on in brief time periods when it’s under a general mobilization.

    That aside, you had prevalent shortcomings in a number of the European powers and their dependencies. France was damaged by hyper-centralization and a contrived and abusive secularism. In the United States, you had the Southern caste system and urban patron-client politics which had no analogue in Britain. In the Mediterranean states, parliamentary institutions were corrupted in various ways. In Russia, electoral institutions were novel on the supralocal scale and not venerable in the realm of local government, either (and the general elections held prior to the war manipulated). The political order in most components of Europe in 1907 compared favorably to what it was 30 years later.

  • When most Americans think of a constitutional monarchy they think of Great Britain where the monarch is a figure head. That was not the case in Imperial Germany except, i

    I doubt the institutional differences between the British monarchy and the German monarchies were contextually all that important. As for what the Bethmann-Hollweg ministry might have done had it be responsible to the legislature, that’s tough to say without a really granular knowledge of German parliamentary politics of the period. The political culture in European countries was radically different. Spain, France, and Italy invested over 15 years in subduing the Maghreb in the era. It’s difficult to imagine any occidental country today having that kind of attention span or willing to do something so incongruent with commodious living. Establishing dependencies in Syria and Morocco wasn”t some hobbyist’s project in France. There was vigorous sentiment in favor of it among politically attentive populations if not the public at large. Clemenceau was unusual among working politicians in France for thinking the collection of dependencies abroad a waste of resources and attention.

  • “I doubt the institutional differences between the British monarchy and the German monarchies were contextually all that important.”

    In Great Britain Parliament controlled the government and in Imperial Germany the Reichstag had no say as to the government, the government and the Reichstag being completely separate institutions.

    “As for what the Bethmann-Hollweg ministry might have done had it be responsible to the legislature, that’s tough to say without a really granular knowledge of German parliamentary politics of the period.”

    For the 1914 crisis it might well be irrelevant since the Imperial constitution gave the Kaiser control over foreign policy and he was the one who decided to give a blank check to Austria.

  • “In the general elections held prior to the war, ethnic particularist parties cadged about 10% of the vote in Hungary and 17% in the rest of the Empire. They weren’t politically separatist in an unambiguous way, either. The situation in 1918-19 was quite protean and events took a course that would have been scarcely imaginable a decade earlier in either the Hapsburg or Hohenzollern realms.”

    It was quite imaginable Art with nationalist groups looking for more and more autonomy since the middle of the nineteenth century. It was a miracle that the polyglot empire survived until 1914, and with the advent of the Great War, the empire was fresh out of miracles.

  • Just a side comment from a German-American whose family left the country during Kulturkampf. WW I essentially began because few of the participants thought they could be defeated. It was clear in 1915 that this was not the case. Yet the war continued because there was fear that governments would fall if it were stopped on any basis other than victory. Most of the comments here regarding the state of conditions in Europe are largely correct. It was a 20th century continent in many ways but shackled to 18th century style governments. Even when the war ended on 11 Nov, the countries were determined to act in large measure as before. Little wonder than most historians regard the 1914-1945 period much the same as the Thirty Years War of three centuries earlier.

  • In Great Britain Parliament controlled the government and in Imperial Germany the Reichstag had no say as to the government, the government and the Reichstag being completely separate institutions.
    The cabinet in Britain is notionally responsible to the parliament. I’m not sure you could find an example of a ministry being ejected from office by a no confidence vote at any time since 1902. There are British prime ministers and party chieftains who’ve run afoul of their party caucus and faced leadership crises (Austen Chamberlain, Ramsey MacDonald, Edward Heath, Margaret Thatcher, and Ian Duncan-Smith). It’s a skill for a British PM to ‘be a Westminster politician and not a Whitehall politician”. Still, you do not have the sort of discipline of the executive that the French or Italian Chamber have exercised, and that’s a good thing by and large. ‘Cabinet responsibility’ in Britain governs the composition of the ministry, not really the balance of power between the cabinet and the legislature. As for Wilhelmine Germany, the ministry still has to work with the legislature (though there was a consequential incident in Prussia ca. 1862 when Bismarck ordered tax collections in defiance of the legislature).

    For the 1914 crisis it might well be irrelevant since the Imperial constitution gave the Kaiser control over foreign policy and he was the one who decided to give a blank check to Austria.

    The Kaisar made decisions in a given matrix. Your counterfactual is that had someone like Friedrich Ebert had been sitting in the Chancellor’s chair, there would have been no war. That’s conceivable, but that’s really more a function of the policy dispositions of the German political class, not of a structural factor.

    It was quite imaginable Art with nationalist groups looking for more and more autonomy since the middle of the nineteenth century. It was a miracle that the polyglot empire survived until 1914, and with the advent of the Great War, the empire was fresh out of miracles.

    Again, political separatism in the Dual Monarchy was in 1910 fairly weak. It’s rather florid to call the place a ‘prison house’ that being the case. It was a rather cumbersome and suboptimal arrangement, but that’s a different problem.

  • It was a 20th century continent in many ways but shackled to 18th century style governments.

    What are you talking about? Monarchical absolutism was the order of the day in 18th century Europe everywhere but in Britain, Switzerland, and a few coastal merchant republics. There wasn’t a single example of monarchical absolutism left in Europe in 1914. Russia bore the closest resemblance to monarchical absolutism. You’d be hard put to find a European county of any size in 1750 that was as equalitarian and liberal-democratic as Stolypin’s Russia.

  • “The cabinet in Britain is notionally responsible to the parliament. I’m not sure you could find an example of a ministry being ejected from office by a no confidence vote at any time since 1902.”

    Twice in 1924 and once in 1979. Of course knowing this could happen often exerts a restraint upon a government for policies hard to explain to parliament.

  • Twice in 1924 and once in 1979. Of course knowing this could happen often exerts a restraint upon a government for policies hard to explain to parliament.

    The Labour Party in 1979 had lost control of parliament through attrition and by-elections over the previous 4 years. The no-confidence vote cut short the life of parliament by just 5 months. The party system was in flux from 1916 to 1939 and at its most unstable right around 1924 as the Labour Party was displacing the various LIberal Parties. It was during that era when the British party landscape most resembled a continental landscape, with the qualification that Britain’s never been hospitable soil for red parties or brown parties (as France, Italy, Portugal, Greece, Czchoslovakia, Hungary, and Roumania have at times been).

  • I appreciate your response, Jim.

    There is a YouTube video, produced in Poland with English subtitles, that is a docu-drama about the retaking of Greater Poland (western Poland) by the Polish from the Germans after WWII. Before the war ended, when Lenin seized Russia, he quit the war and withdrew the Russian Army to Russia proper. After the war, Austria withdrew from Galicia (southern Poland and western Ukraine). The Germans had no intention of withdrawing from the Polish territory they seized in the Partitions. It is from this video that i got my historical background, along with the quote from the Kaiser. A patchwork of Polish militias attacked German army bases and political installations in Greater Poland until the Germans withdrew.
    (After that they fought and beat the Red Army but that’s another story).

    The Hapsburgs had to give in to the Hungarians in the 19th century to hold the whole thing together. From a practical point, Galicia, which was at least able to be Catholic, was the poorest of partitioned Poland.

    I still find myself faulting the Germans, at least their government. They gave Lenin free passage from Switzerland and gave him money and other help to overthrow the czar in order to get Russia out of the war. They were allies with the Ottomans, who committed genocide against the Armenians. Their quest for their “place in the sun” cast a long shadow over Europe and led to the rise of the Nazis and Communists. They never really had any chance to win either war, as both times the severely underestimated the United States.

    Dzien dobry.

  • I read all this last evening and considered making no more ‘additions’ to this debate. However, that comment about a “hapless dilettante” changed my mind. That obtuse comment reminded me of something I read years ago by some typical dopey English secularist about Karl’s beatification; pure drivel if I remember correctly. Don, you continually repeat the same opinions and half-truths to support the established historical paradigm, which is most definitely anti-catholic when it comes to Austria-Hungary, and just plain wrong when it comes to that ‘blank check’ nonsense, again more of the same oft-repeated opinions which become fact by repetition. All European foreign policy was driven by the ‘alliance system.’ Now, you’ve chosen to believe the victors’ premise that Serbia’s active support for terrorist acts in Bosnia didn’t constitute an act of war. To keep Russia (possibly) out if it, Austria needed German support…again. You ignore the fact that France gave Russia a blank check, but notice how that is not in the so-called histories you continually cite links to.
    As to Karl lying about his peace overtures, the edited letters indicated he was open to a separate peace agreeing to all the Allied war aims; that is what he denied. He never denied making an attempt to open active negotiations, and wanted the Wilhelm’s support. That is an important fact that also fits not into the victor’s narrative. Were you aware that Wilson’s reaction to the Pope’s peace appeal was: “What’s he butting in for?” No Don, your impertinent characterization is just wrong. I no longer assume you’d even take a second look at that entire exercise in futility, and refuse to recognize that Allied war aims were governed by the secret treaty with Italy, and the assurance of victory America’s involvement guaranteed.
    Art Deco is doing a better job than I in refuting your claims about that great paragon of democracy in action known as the British Parliament. You forget that that so-called august institution has always acted at the whim of the moneyed classes. Our arguments about the extent of democracy, or its elements in Germany is becoming pointless. The fact that Imperial Germany was a federation of independent states with their own law-making assemblies again doesn’t fit the popular narrative. Yes, the Reichstag had limited powers to control the Kaiser and his ministers, and thence foreign policy; but they had control over Imperial expenditures, and even passed a peace bill, which unfortunately meant nothing under martial law.
    For the record, how much control did our congress have over a lawless tyrannical dilettante
    of a president we had for the past eight years? Since we’re making comparisons, how is the use of poison gas in Syria a direct threat to the USA necessitating military action without a war declaration? We don’t even know if the rebels got hold of some of that stuff do we? I mean, we can trust the “intelligence” community right? Hey they had that Iran ayatollah and Iraq atom bomb thing all figured out, right? Thank another hapless head of state named Jimmy Carter for emasculating our Intelligence apparatus….But I drigress….
    And for the record, there was NO German IMPERIAL ARMY, though many who’ve written on the subject and should know better have made such reference. The only Imperial German military establishment from 1871 to 1918 was the navy.
    I don’t like to argue political ‘science’ as it’s not really taught within the confines of history, or so I believe. Your characterizations about Parliament ignore the fact that it’s power over the crown resulted from a long process, based on anti-catholicism and union of church and state. That the Imperial assembly of Germany developed in a different way in deference to the respective monarchs involved doesn’t make it less democratic. Hell, do we ‘popularly’ elect our head of state? No, we don’t; and thank the Founding Fathers for that!
    I guess enough of that….
    Art Deco refuted your ‘prison house…’ better than I could.
    Don, it’s your show and you can vilify my opinions, but you have only repeated the same old have-truths as facts. I’d like to point out that many authors of like mind write books with footnotes citing each other’s books, thereby establishing each as ‘factual.’ That’s exactly what we have when it comes to the start of the Great War. Repeating a lie does make it truth, though we all must admit to more than one side to a story!
    Pen Fan, I must admit my only familiarity with the combat post-war between the Poles and the German Freikorps concerns the German naval aviators and their planes fighting there. O appreciate your point of view on that. I can only add; what is history but a record of settling scores??? Right and wrong are not always clear either….
    As to Lenin, I must add that Kaiser Karl was against fomenting revolution in Russia and refused to let the ‘sealed train’ enter his countries. So much for a “hapless dilettante” as someone said….
    Cheerio!

  • Man, poor editing…please forgive my numerous typo’s!

  • You forget that that so-called august institution has always acted at the whim of the moneyed classes.

    I don’t think David Lloyd George, Andrew Bonar Law, Ramsay MacDonald, or anyone in the leadership stratum of the Labour party prior to 1935 would qualify as manifestations of ‘the moneyed classes’. The King and the Liberal / Labour / Irish ministries co-operated in a successful effort to geld the House of Lords in 1911, btw. (While we’re at it, Stanley Baldwin, the Chamberlain brothers, Winston Churchill, Harold MacMillan, Lord Home, William Hague, and David Cameron were the issue of the ‘moneyed classes’. No other British PM or opposition leader of the last century merits the designation; only Lord Home and Churchill derived from the peerage or the gentry).

  • I was referring to the time period of the discussion and prior….A belated Happy Easter to all!

March 20, 1917: Lansing Memorandum

Monday, March 20, AD 2017

On March 17, 1917, President Wilson met with his Cabinet to consider the question of whether the US should enter the Great War.  Fortunately for historians of this period, Secretary of State Robert Lansing drafted a detailed memorandum of the meeting:

The Cabinet Meeting of today I consider the most momentous and therefore, the most historic of any of those which have been held since I became Secretary of State, since it involved, unless a miracle occurs the question of war with Germany and the abandonment of the policy of neutrality which has been pursued for two years and a half….

The corridors of the State Department and Executive Office swarmed with press correspondents seeking to get some inkling of what would be done from passing officials. It was through these eager crowds of news-gatherers that I forced my way at half-past two Tuesday afternoon under a bombardment of questions, to which I made no reply, and entered the Cabinet room where all the other members had arrived.

Three minutes later the President came in and passed to his place at the head of the table shaking hands with each member and smiling as genially and composedly as if nothing of importance was to be considered. Composure is a marked characteristic of the President. Nothing ruffles the calmness of his manner or address. It has a sobering effect on all who sit with him in council. Excitement would seem very much out of place at the Cabinet table with Woodrow Wilson presiding.

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March 8, 1917: Senate Introduces Cloture

Wednesday, March 8, AD 2017

Woodrow Wilson was no fan of Senate filibusters:

The Democrats controlled the Senate from 1913-1919 and Wilson hated the way that Republicans could bottle up his proposed legislation through the filibuster.  To mollify him, the Senate Democrats passed a rule change one hundred years ago that allowed the termination of debate on a two-thirds vote to invoke cloture.  Even after cloture each Senator could speak for an additional hour on the matter under consideration before a vote was taken.  Cloture existed more in theory than in practice.  Over the next 46 years the Senate would vote for cloture only five times.  There are several reasons why this was the case.

Filibusters added a touch of drama and comedy to otherwise dry proceedings.  The public generally enjoyed them as did more than a few Senators.  Many Senators prided themselves upon belonging to what they called the greatest deliberative body, and thought that the filibuster played an essential role in what made the Senate the Senate.  Southern Democrats, relying on the filibuster to stop civil rights legislation, were fervent supporters of the filibuster.  Many Senators realized that shifting political fortunes could turn a majority into a minority over night, and that the filibuster was the strongest tool of a minority. 

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8 Responses to March 8, 1917: Senate Introduces Cloture

  • Woodrow Wilson was a one world government advocate and a traitor to American sovereignty, with contempt for freedom and the people.

  • I loved “Mr. Smith”. It was not only so great just because of the moral example of Mr. Smith, so upstanding and so determined, but in the end of the movie the evil was revealed when the conscience of the leading bad guy began to work.
    We can still pray for consciences to prevail in our three branches and various departments.
    Somebody somewhere will start to remember that momma and daddy reared them to be good…

  • “Woodrow Wilson was a one world government advocate and a traitor to American sovereignty, with contempt for freedom and the people.”

    Wilson was a racist and a big government man, but he was not an advocate for world government nor was he a traitor to American sovereignty. His dislike of the filibuster is a fairly common belief of Presidents when their party controls the Senate.

  • Of course, Wilson was right. It’s a silly practice to have a Senator standing there reciting from the Biloxi City Directory for hours on end. Rules revisions introducing the Cadillac filibuster 40 years ago (which required saying ‘no’ at intervals and did not require marathon speaking) made the situation worse, as did the extension of ‘holds’ on nominees (initially a practice meant to delay action for a few days so that Senators would not be tied to the chamber) into a license for louts like Richard Shelby to anonymously gum up the works for months on end.

    The. U.S. Senate is an awful institution, and the sooner it’s abolished, the better.

  • It is time for faithful Catholics to coalesde as a group that clings to truths taught by orthodox teachers intheir past, and be deaf to the current Pope and his deformed henchmen,priests, bishopd and cardinals. Deliverance will come.

  • “Wilson was a racist and a big government man, but he was not an advocate for world government nor was he a traitor to American sovereignty” Wilson was the inventor of the League of Nations concept, the forerunner of the United Nations. The UN would take over the world if they could and make subjects of all American citizens, taxing us and running our government without our Constitution. Wilson had contempt for our Constitution. Doing away with our Constitution would have made Wilson happy.

  • The League of Nations had very little in common with the contemporary United Nations and blaming Wilson for the contemporary United Nations is rather akin to blaming Abraham Lincoln for a modern race riot. As for the Constitution, Wilson thought it needed to be updated through amendment, as it was while he was President. He never gave any indication that he hated the Constitution. I have very little liking for Wilson as a historical figure, but fair is fair, and Wilson has been recently savaged by some really poor historical scholarship, much of it promoted by the lunatic Glenn Beck. There is ample ground for criticizing Wilson without lying about him.

  • True. I did believe that Wilson was the father of what is going on in our colleges and universities, now. I will have to research more on what Wilson taught about our Constitution having to be replaced. SEE: Amendment Nine.

March 1, 1917: The Zimmerman Telegram Story Breaks

Wednesday, March 1, AD 2017

On February 20, 1917 British intelligence revealed to the US ambassador to Great Britain the contents of the Zimmerman telegram, go here to read about the telegram.  The Brits disclosed to the Americans the code breaking that they engaged in to read the message.  When the telegram was disclosed to the public, in order to protect British code breaking, it was alleged that British agents had stolen a copy of the telegram in Mexico.  The contents of the message was so fantastic that many Americans thought it was likely a fake produced by the British, which was the line taken by the mighty Hearst empire.  President Wilson was  faced with a dilemma as to whether to disclose that the British had decoded the message, and risk the ability of the British to read German messages, or to let the erroneous charges that the telegram was a fake remain unanswered. His dilemma would be shortly resolved by an unlikely source.

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February 8, 1915: Birth of a Nation Debuts in Los Angeles

Wednesday, February 8, AD 2017

 

The film Birth of a Nation, D.W. Griffith’s masterpiece, was  controversial at its release and remains so.  At three hours the film was a pioneering effort using then cutting age technology to produce a movie that stunned viewers with its cinematic quality, something that no one had ever seen before.  At the same time the film, based on the pro-Ku Klux Klan novel the Clansman by Thomas Dixon, a friend of President Woodrow Wilson, drew outrage from Grand Army of the Republic Union veterans and black groups with its depiction of the Klan as noble heroes attempting to fight against evil Unionists and its depiction of blacks as little better than beasts who walked erect.  Race riots broke out in cities where the film was shown.  President Wilson viewed the film in the White House and was reported to have said, “It is like writing history with lightning. And my only regret is that it is all so terribly true”.  The White House denied the remark, and in the wake of continuing protests, Wilson eventually condemned the “unfortunate production”.  The film used quotes from Wilson’s scholarly works to buttress its negative depiction of Reconstruction and its positive depiction of the Klan.  Considering the fact that Wilson imposed segregation on the Civil Service it is difficult to discern what he found to be “unfortunate” about the film.

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3 Responses to February 8, 1915: Birth of a Nation Debuts in Los Angeles

  • I have seen “Intolerance,” or at least most of it. It is a brilliant piece of film-making and the origin of the “cast of thousands.” Some of the shots still astound.

    It does a beautiful job of condemning religious prejudice, feeding into a Protestant audience’s feelings with a grim depiction of the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre and then throwing a brutal change-up: the next chapter features an innocent Catholic man being framed for a crime and sentenced to execution.

    If only he could have done something with respect to the hatred depicted in the also-brilliant but hellishly racist “Birth,” which is no less than grotesque in parts.
    “Intolerance” is still worth a watch, despite its predecessor.

    Oh, and Wilson turns my stomach. If only Teddy had won in 1912…

  • DW Griffiths’ movie “Birth of a Nation”: “with its depiction of the Klan as noble heroes attempting to fight against evil Unionists.”

    Then, as now, Hollywood was controlled by the Demonrats: then, the military wing of the Demonrat party was the KKK; now it is “Occupy!”, BLM, and “Black Rock.”

    How little has changed.

  • Dale
    If you can tolerate 3 hour movies here is the link
    https://youtu.be/eo66cJqEl4A

6 Responses to January 31, 1917: Germany Announces the Resumption of Unrestricted Submarine Warfare

Theodore Roosevelt and The Curse of Meroz

Monday, January 23, AD 2017

 

 

Theodore Roosevelt had long been a harsh critic of the neutrality policy of the Wilson administration.  On January 29, 1917 he gave a memorable response to the January 22, 1917 speech to the Senate of President Wilson in which Wilson called for Peace Without Victory:

“President Wilson has announced himself in favor of peace without victory, and now he has declared himself against universal service-that is against all efficient preparedness by the United States.

Peace without victory is the natural ideal of the man too proud to fight.

When fear of the German submarine next moves President Wilson to declare for “peace without victory” between the tortured Belgians and their cruel oppressors and task masters;  when such fear next moves him to utter the shameful untruth that each side is fighting for the same things, and to declare for neutrality between wrong and right;  let him think of the prophetess Deborah who, when Sisera mightily oppressed the children of Israel with his chariots of iron, and when the people of Meroz stood neutral between the oppressed and their oppressors, sang of them:

“Curse ye Meroz, sang the angel of the  Lord, curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof, because they came not to the help of the Lord against the wrongdoings of the mighty.”” 

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7 Responses to Theodore Roosevelt and The Curse of Meroz

  • Were not the alleged atrocities the Germans perpetuated on the Belgians in WWI part of a propaganda campaign. Were they ficticious, or at least exaggerated? And what was the object of WW I, anyway? WW II I can understand; Hitler wanted to take over the world. But WW I, I can see what happened, but not why. It seems everyone involved used it as an excuse for some strategic advantage of their own.

  • “Were they ficticious, or at least exaggerated?”

    They were real enough, as the corpses of some six thousand Belgian civilians, men, women and children, slaughtered in reprisals by the German Army at the beginning of the War could attest.

    http://ww1centenary.oucs.ox.ac.uk/memoryofwar/the-rape-of-belgium-revisited/

  • Thanks for the clarification. What about the purpose of the war, or goal? never could figure it out.

  • Much ink and cyberspace has been spent on WWI.
    Granted that the Germans did not assassinate Archduke Franz Ferdinand, I still blame Germany. The German nation was ruled by Lutheran Prussians and wanted an empire. Kulturkampf and their treatment of Poles were both rotten.

  • The purposes of the War varied among the belligerents:

    Great Britain-Free Belgium. Prevent Germany from dominating Europe.

    France-Get back Alsace-Lorraine. Prevent Germany from dominating Europe.

    Italy-Prevent Germany from dominating Europe. Get Tyrolia from Austria-Hungary.

    Serbia-Survival.

    Russia-Protect Serbia. Stop Germany and Austria Hungary from dominating Europe.

    Austria Hungary-Destroy Serbia. Dominate the Balkans.

    Germany-Hold onto territorial conquests. Become dominant power in Europe.

    USA-Defeat Germany. Build new international order to make another World War impossible.

  • To mr. McClary. The best way for Serbia to survive was NOT to provoke Austria-Hungary to go to war. But Serbia was a very aggressive state, with a large and active irredentist faction that wanted just that and who expected Russia too come to their aid. Their war aim was the establishment of a south slave state dominated by Serbia. In other words, they wanted to become in the Balkans what Prussia had become in the German-speaking lands.

  • “The best way for Serbia to survive was NOT to provoke Austria-Hungary to go to war. But Serbia was a very aggressive state, with a large and active irredentist faction that wanted just that and who expected Russia too come to their aid.”

    Correct, and elements in Austria had long pined for the destruction of Serbia and the domination of the Balkans by Austria. The Chief of Staff of the Austrian Army had recommended a pre-emptive war against Serbia some 13 times prior to 1914. The first lesson of history in the Balkans is that no one has clean hands.

January 22, 1917: Peace Without Victory

Sunday, January 22, AD 2017

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The United States was two months from entering the Great War when President Wilson addressed the Senate a century ago, calling for Peace Without Victory and laying out the beginnings of what would eventually be his Fourteen Points as the basis of peace:

Gentlemen of the Senate:

On the 18th of December last, I addressed an identical note to the governments of the nations now at war requesting them to state, more definitely than they had yet been stated by either group of belligerents, the terms upon which they would deem it possible to make peace.  I spoke on behalf of humanity and of the rights of all neutral nations like our own, many of whose most vital interests the war puts in constant jeopardy.

The Central Powers united in a reply which state merely that they were ready to meet their antagonists in conference to discuss terms of peace.  The Entente powers have replied much more definitely and have stated, in general terms, indeed, but with sufficient definiteness to imply details, the arrangements, guarantees, and acts of reparation which they deem to be the indispensable conditions of a satisfactory settlement.  We are that much nearer a definite discussion of the peace which shall end the present war.  We are that much nearer the definite discussion of the international concert which must thereafter hold the world at peace.

In every discussion of peace that must end this war, it is taken for granted that the peace must be followed by some definite concert of power which will make it virtually impossible that any such catastrophe should ever overwhelm us again.  Every love of mankind, every sane and thoughtful man must take that for granted.

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One Response to January 22, 1917: Peace Without Victory

  • I had never been happier in my life ! I had voluntarily enlisted eight days after graduating from High School; while some had tried everything they could think of to avoid the Draft. I even knew two guys, from High School, that had fled to Canada. But here I was, on the last leg of the flights that were taking me HOME ! I had been gone for nearly four long years, and was eager to see the faces of my loved ones again. I had disembarked and walked into the Terminal, when some hoodlum, who looked like a Manson follower, ran up and spit on my uniform ! Timothy Reed

A Hard Fought Presidential Election

Monday, November 14, AD 2016

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One hundred years ago the United States went through a presidential election that was hard fought and narrowly decided.  Woodrow Wilson, the only Democrat elected President since the Civil War, except for the two terms of Grover Cleveland, largely owed his election in 1912 to the Republican schism that caused Theodore Roosevelt to run as the candidate  of the Progressive (Bull Moose) Party, winning more votes than the Republican candidate President William Howard Taft, and ensuring victory for the Democrats.

The Republican Party standard bearer, Charles Evans Hughes, resigned from the Supreme Court to run.  A moderate, Hughes mollified and unified the Republican Party conservative and progressive factions.  This was underlined when Theodore Roosevelt declined the nomination of the Progressive Party, announcing his support for Hughes.  Wilson now faced a united Republican party.

The Democrats, ironically in light of subsequent developments centered their campaign around the slogan, “He kept us out of war.”  Hughes barnstormed the nation, as did Theodore Roosevelt who tirelessly campaigned for Hughes.  Hughes attacked increasing business regulation by the Wilson administration as an infringement on traditional American freedom.

Ultimately Wilson won on November 7, 1916, with a popular vote margin of 600,000 out of 17 and a half million votes cast, and an electoral vote count of 277-254. 266 electoral college votes were needed to win and the election was decided by California’s 13 electoral votes, which took several days to count, keeping the nation in suspense.  Less than four thousand votes, out of almost a million cast, constituted Wilson’s victory margin over Hughes.

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3 Responses to A Hard Fought Presidential Election

June 14, 1916-June 14, 2016

Tuesday, June 14, AD 2016

 

 

 

 

And he began with the simple things that everybody’s known and felt–the freshness of a fine morning when you’re young, and the taste of food when you’re hungry, and the new day that’s every day when you’re a child. He took them up and he turned them in his hands. They were good things for any man. But without freedom, they sickened. And when he talked of those enslaved, and the sorrows of slavery, his voice got like a big bell. He talked of the early days of America and the men who had made those days. It wasn’t a spread-eagle speech, but he made you see it. He admitted all the wrong that had ever been done. But he showed how, out of the wrong and the right, the suffering and the starvations, something new had come. And everybody had played a part in it, even the traitors.

Stephen Vincent Benet, The Devil and Daniel Webster

 

 

A century of Flag Days:

 

 

My Fellow Countrymen:

Many circumstances have recently conspired to turn our thoughts to a critical examination of the conditions of our national life, of the influences which have seemed to threaten to divide us in interest and sympathy, of forces within and forces without that seemed likely to draw us away from the happy traditions of united purpose and action of which we have been so proud, It has therefore seemed to me fitting that I should call your attention to the approach of the anniversary of the day upon which the flag of the United States was adopted by the Congress as the emblem of the Union, and to suggest to you that it should this year and in the years to come be given special significance as a day of renewal and reminder, a day upon which we should direct our minds with a special desire of renewal to thoughts of the ideals and principles of which we have sought to make our great Government the embodiment.

I therefore suggest and request that throughout the nation and if possible in every community the fourteenth day of June be observed as FLAG DAY with special patriotic exercises, at which means shall be taken to give significant expression to our thoughtful love of America, our comprehension of the great mission of liberty and justice to which we have devoted ourselves as a people, our pride in the history and our enthusiasm for the political programme of the nation, our determination to make it greater and purer with each generation, and our resolution to demonstrate to all the world its, vital union in sentiment and purpose, accepting only those as true compatriots who feel as we do the compulsion of this supreme allegiance. Let us on that day rededicate ourselves to the nation, “one and inseparable” from which every thought that is not worthy of our fathers’ first vows in independence, liberty, and right shall be excluded and in which we shall stand with united hearts, for an America which no man can corrupt, no influence draw away from its ideals, no force divide against itself,-a nation signally distinguished among all the nations of mankind for its clear, individual conception alike of its duties and its privileges, its obligations and its rights.

In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington this thirtieth day of May, in the year of our Lord one thousand nine hundred and sixteen, and of the independence of the United States of America the one hundred and fortieth.


WOODROW WILSON

By the President:

ROBERT Lansing

 

 

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3 Responses to June 14, 1916-June 14, 2016

Art Imitating Life and Life Imitating Art

Sunday, September 21, AD 2014

I finished watching Ken Burns, The Roosevelts:  An Intimate History.  A fair amount of liberal hagiography for FDR and, especially, Eleanor, but on the whole I liked it, and I will review it in a future post.  However, I was struck by a vignette that occurred in the final episode last night.

By 1944 FDR was in visibly failing health.  Diagnosed with congestive  heart failure, Dr. Howard Bruenn, a Navy Lieutenant Commander and cardiologist, followed him everywhere.  He recommended extended bed rest which was an impossible diagnosis for a Commander-in-Chief during a World War.

At the Quebec Conference with Churchill, in the evening for entertainment, FDR had the film Wilson (1944) shown.  A film biopic of the life of Woodrow Wilson from his election as Governor of New Jersey in 1910, the movie is largely forgotten today.  It won several Oscars, but was a financial flop, people being too preoccupied with the current World War to want to see a movie about the first one.  Alexander Knox, relegated through most of his career in character actor roles, does a good job in the role of Wilson.  Making the dessicated, pedantic Wilson into a heroic figure was difficult, but the film, taking a fast and loose approach with much of the history of the period, and with the help of a majestic musical score, accomplishes the feat.  It is definitely worth watching.

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6 Responses to Art Imitating Life and Life Imitating Art

  • The only mensch in the bunch was TR’s son: assistant div commander through North Africa, Sicily, and D-Day.

    I only watched the last half hour last episode.

    I am truly elated I didn’t waste any more eyesight on 100% liberal propaganda/spucatum tauri.

    One thing struck me. I’m as old as the man when went to judgment. My grandfathers passed in their late 40’s and early 50’s. Only the good die young.

    Major take-away. The Roosevelts are representative of the elites that have run this country at least since 1913 – IRS/income tax and the Federal Reserve System. And, N.B. in their 24/7 work to impose their progressive pipe-dreams. They have done such a good job of progressing us.

  • “The only mensch in the bunch was TR’s son: assistant div commander through North Africa, Sicily, and D-Day.”

    All four of FDR’s sons served in combat during World War II.

  • I noticed that one historical tidbit was glossed over at the end of the series. The Eleanor Roosevelt – JFK meeting was such a love fest in the show. However, I do recall an account of JFK telling his aides how she had put him through the ringer over his reluctance to nominate Adlai Stevenson to be Secretary of State. Oops, another one just went down the memory hole.

  • Although she became supportive of him eventually, Eleanor initially had disdain for Kennedy as a conservative Democrat, which is what she perceived him to be, and which, in some ways he was from her point of view.

    http://www.gwu.edu/~erpapers/mep/displaydoc.cfm?docid=erpintrob

    Of course FDR and Joe Kennedy cordially despised each other, so there was probably some carryover from that.

  • I remember as a young man seating in my maternal grandfather porch lamenting about the situation in my beloved Cuba, I will never forget my grandpa’s words to me:
    SON,THE REASON WHY COMMUNISM IS SUCCESSFUL IN THIS HEMISPHERE WE OWE TO FDR HE SOLD US DOWN THE TUBES BY DEALING WITH STALIN, THUS PERMITTING THE SOVIETS TO INFILTRATE DEMOCRATIC COUNTRIES.
    I could not believe what I heard. Later on as I became an AMERICAN I studied and learned Granpa was right.
    GOD BLESS AMERICA.

  • One more comment on the Roosevelt documentary: the account of FDR leading the nation in prayer on the evening of June 6, 1944 was refreshing and positive, without a hint of anti-religious sentiment. I was surprised and even impressed. FYI the text of the prayer can be found here: http://www.historyplace.com/speeches/fdr-prayer.htm

Wilson Speaks

Wednesday, August 28, AD 2013

An audio recording of Woodrow Wilson in 1912 taking advantage of the division in Republican ranks that would lead Theodore Roosevelt to bolt the party and run as the standard bearer of the Bull Moose party that he created.  Wilson’s matter of fact, dry delivery, so in keeping with his profession of professor, reminds me of how in so many ways he was the anti-Roosevelt in style, although the similarities in domestic policy between him and Roosevelt were closer that either of them, both of whom cordially detested the other, were comfortable with.

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One Response to Wilson Speaks

  • Mr. Wilson softly intones a kind of Fascism that we have been unable to shake off a century later. Obama sings the same song. It’s time to stop the music.