OVERT ACT BY GERMANY WILL RESULT IN U.S. MILITARY RESPONSE
Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) One hundred years ago today, February 10, 1917, the Chicago Daily Tribune published a front page story reporting discussion at President Woodrow Wilson's cabinet meeting the previous day.
The main topic was the question of what action by Germany would result in a declaration of war by the United States. While it was agreed that "no overt act" had yet been committed by the Germans since their resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare**, any overt act on their part would cause the President to "ask authority (of the Congress) to employ the armed forces of the nation."
Overt action was identified as the sinking of American ships without warning or killing American citizens aboard merchantmen of any nationality.
President Wilson indicated, however, he would not ask for a declaration of war in such an instance, but would "protect the lives and rights of Americans on the high seas" by using the armed forces.
One of the participants in the cabinet meeting identified by the Tribune was Secretary of State Robert Lansing.**
*unrestricted submarine warfare is a type of naval warfare in which submarines sink vessels without giving warning beforehand. Germany resumed usw on Feb 1, 1917 declaring the waters around the British Isles a "war zone" where all merchant ships, including neutrals, were subject to attack.
**Robert Lansing (1864-1928) was born in Watertown, NY & graduated from Amherst in 1886. He was admitted to the bar in 1889. RL served as legal adviser at the US State Dept at the outbreak of WWI & as Secretary of State 1915-1920.
RL was head of the US Commission at the Paris Peace Conference at the end of the war, but fell out of favor with the President because he did not agree that the League of Nations was essential to the peace treaty. After the President suffered a stroke, Mrs. Wilson asked for Mr. Lansing's resignation.
"Wilson Ready To Use Force If Necessary," The Chicago Daily Tribune, Vol LXXVI -- No. 36, Final Edition, February 10, 1917.