PRESIDENT WILSON BYPASSES CONGRESS, ARMS AMERICAN SHIPS
Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) 100 years ago today, March 9, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson bypassed the United States Congress and issued the order to arm American merchant ships for protection against German submarines.
Arthur Sears Henning wrote in The Chicago Daily Tribune the following day that the President made the decision to take the action when he was informed he had the power by Secretary of State Robert Lansing* and Attorney General Thomas W. Gregory** and after he was convinced Germany was carrying out a "campaign of ruthlessness" via submarine warfare.
Mr. Henning wrote that the President's action, along with his call for an extra session of Congress to be assembled on April 16, "indicates the government is embarking upon a course which may lead to war with Germany."
Tribune readers were also alerted to the administration's call for "all loyal Americans to support the government without question and to maintain silence upon the plans for the protection of Americans..."
*Robert Lansing (1864-1928) was born in Watertown, NY & educated at Amherst College. RL was legal adviser to the State Department at the outbreak of WWI & served as President Wilson's Secretary of State from 1915 to 1920.
**Thomas Watt Gregory (1861-1933) was born in Crwfordsville, Mississippi & graduated from the University of Texas Law School in 1885. He served as President Wilson's Attorney General from 1914 to 1919.
"Put Veil On Ship Arming, Navy Active To Meet The U-Boat Crisis," by Arthur Sears Henning, The Chicago Daily Tribune, March 10, 1917, www.archives.chicagotribune.com/