Lot Content

Global notice COVID-19 Important notice
WILSON, Woodrow. Broadside signed ("Woodrow Wilson"), as President, "A Message Calling for War with the Imperial German Government in Defense of American Rights. Delivered by President Wilson to the Congress of the United States of America on Monday April the second in the year Nineteen Hundred and Seventeen," n.d. Large folio, 22 1/8 x 16½ inches, printed in three columns, with decorative initial capitals in red and gold.
WILSON, Woodrow. Broadside signed ("Woodrow Wilson"), as President, "A Message Calling for War with the Imperial German Government in Defense of American Rights. Delivered by President Wilson to the Congress of the United States of America on Monday April the second in the year Nineteen Hundred and Seventeen," n.d. Large folio, 22 1/8 x 16½ inches, printed in three columns, with decorative initial capitals in red and gold.

Details
WILSON, Woodrow. Broadside signed ("Woodrow Wilson"), as President, "A Message Calling for War with the Imperial German Government in Defense of American Rights. Delivered by President Wilson to the Congress of the United States of America on Monday April the second in the year Nineteen Hundred and Seventeen," n.d. Large folio, 22 1/8 x 16½ inches, printed in three columns, with decorative initial capitals in red and gold.

"THE WORLD MUST BE MADE SAFE FOR DEMOCRACY"

A STRIKING BROADSIDE PRINTING OF PRESIDENT WILSON'S WAR MESSAGE TO THE CONGRESS ON 2 APRIL 1917. After keeping the United States neutral during nearly three years of vicious global warfare, Woodrow Wilson at last felt there was no choice but to join the conflict. In February, the German government announced it was resuming unrestricted submarine warfare: "The new policy," he tells the Congress, "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 present German submarine warfare against commerce is a warfare against mankind..."

Between 1914 and 1917 Wilson stuck to American neutrality in the face of repeated provocations. The most spectacular of which was the Lusitania sinking in May 1915. In his 1916 re-election campaign Wilson ran successfully on his peace and neutrality record, declaring there is such a thing as a nation being "too proud to fight." Three times - in 1914, 1915 and 1916 - he sent his personal emissary Colonel House to meet with the leaders of the warring nations to see if the U. S. could mediate a peaceful settlement. Each time they rebuffed him. The warmakers preferred a fight to the finish instead of having to compromise at the negotiating table.

Public opinion was generally pro-Allied but not uniformly or consistently so. The Allied blockade - and its disruptive effect on American exporters - at times caused a tilt towards Germany. But in March 1916, the Germans torpedoed an American merchant ship, the Sussex, inflicting casualties and reigniting the cry for war. Wilson issued what amounted to an ultimatum and the Germans backed down, declaring they would not pursue a policy of all out attacks on neutral shipping. But after the bloody debacles of 1916, the Kaiser and his general staff decided they could win only by cutting off the Allied shipping lifeline. When attacks resumed U-boats sank three American ships in March 1917, causing loss of life. Wilson waited until the convening of the new Congress before making his request for war.

He asked for a draft of 500,000 troops immediately, and said we "shall, if necessary, spend the whole force of the nation to check and nullify" German militarism. "Our object...is to vindicate the principles of peace and justice in the life of the world as against selfish and autocratic power...We have no selfish ends to serve. We desire no conquest, no dominion. We seek no indemnities for ourselves, no material compensation for the sacrifices we shall freely make." In the speech's most memorable line he summed up the American cause: "The World must be made safe for democracy."
;

More from The Forbes Collection of American Historical Documents:

View All
View All