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have likely alienated by the utterances I gave to the press last night concerning the sinking of the Lusitania, but I cannot help it if we lose the case. There is a principle here at stake which is far more vital to the American people than my personal welfare is to me.
He had not consulted his counsel on the subject for the reason, as he explained subsequently, that he had decided on his course and did not wish to be in the position of having to go counter to their advice in case they recommended silence. The self-sacrificing patriotism of his utterances needs no comment. His counsel spoke of it ever afterwards as the most courageous act they had ever known-the supreme revelation of Roosevelt's character.
To his first condemnation of Germany's conduct he added others, day by day, steadily increasing in vigor. On May 8, 1915, he prepared a fuller statement which was published as follows on May 9:
“On the night of the day that the disaster occurred I called the attention of our people to the fact that the sinking of the Lusitania was not only an act of piracy, but that it represented piracy accompanied by murder on a vaster scale than any old-time pirate had ever practiced before being hung for his misdeeds.
“I called attention to the fact that this was merely the application on the high seas, and, at our expense, of the principles which when applied on land had produced the innumerable hideous tragedies that have occurred in Belgium and in Northern France.
“I said that not only our duty to humanity at large, but our duty to preserve our own national self-respect demanded instant action on our part and forbade all delay. I can do little more than reiterate what I then said.
“When the German decree establishing the war zone was issued, and of course plainly threatened exactly the type of tragedy which has occurred, our Government notified Germany that in the event of any such wrongdoing at the expense of our citizens we would hold the German Government to a strict accountability.'
“The use of this phrase, 'strict accountability,' of course, must mean, and can only mean, that action will be taken by us without an hour's unnecessary delay. It was emiently proper to use the exact phrase that was used, and having used it our own self-respect demands that we forthwith abide by it."
On May 9, also, he gave out to the press advance copies of an editorial article, entitled "Murder on the High Seas," that he had written for the Metropolitan Magazine, with which he was associated, in which, after enumerating the outrages committed by Germany on American vessels, culminating with the Lusitania, he said:
“In the teeth of these things, we earn as a nation measureless scorn and contempt if we follow the lead of those who exalt peace above righteousness, if we heed the voice of those feeble folk who bleat to high Heaven for peace when there is no peace. For many months our Government has preserved between right and wrong a neutrality which would have excited the emulous admiration of Pontius Pilate--the arch-typical neutral of all time. . . Unless we act with immediate decision and vigor we shall have failed in the duty demanded by humanity at large and demanded even more clearly by the self-respect of the American Republic."
On the same day that these publications appeared in the press, May 9, there appeared side by side with them this statement which had been issued from the White House on the previous evening:
“Of course the President feels the distress and the gravity of the situation to the utmost, and is considering very earnestly, but very calmly, the right course of action to pursue. He knows that the people of the country expect him to act with deliberation as well as with firmness."
One day later, May 10, 1915, President Wilson, addressing an audience of 15,000 naturalized citizens in Philadel
phia, uttered the famous phrase which immediately became immortal:
“There is such a thing as a man being too proud to fight. There is such a thing as a nation being so right that it does not need to convince others by force that it is right.'
These utterances of the two men at this supreme moment in the life of the nation show very clearly how far apart they were in regard to the course which the national Government should pursue, and why it was that Roosevelt was fairly compelled to enter the lists as the open critic of the President's policies and acts. He said to me at the time: “I would have thrown up my hat for Wilson if only he had given me the chance by acting in the Presidency as a sound American of rugged strength and patriotism. When he trailed the honor of the United States in the dust, I, as a good American, had no alternative but to oppose him."
No one was more surprised than Roosevelt was, when, in spite of his utterances, the jury agreed upon a verdict in his favor. His remarks to the jury at the close of the trial, quoted in the preceding chapter, show how deeply he was touched by it. Yet important as the verdict was to him, it occupied only slight place in his mind at the time. I have searched his letters in vain for any except casual reference to it. He had no thought for anything except the nation and its attitude toward the European war.
STRONG CONDEMNATION OF PRESIDENT WILSON
ROOSEVELT's patriotic indignation because of the sinking of the Lusitania and President Wilson's course in regard to it found expression in many private letters that he wrote at the time, as well as in articles that he wrote for the Metropolitan Magazine, and in public addresses and newspaper interviews. He felt at the time that he was footfree politically and could speak his mind without restraint. “There is great comfort,” he wrote on March 2, 1915, to his intimate and highly-valued friend, E. A. Van Valkenberg of the Philadelphia North American, “in being no longer responsible for the welfare of a party, so that I can tell needed truths without regard to their reacting politically upon any organization with which I am connected.
Writing to Judge Charles F. Amidon, of Fargo, North Dakota, on May 29, 1915, he said:
“As for the Lusitania, of course I agree with you to the last point. President Wilson has failed, and has caused the American people to fail, in performing national and international duty in a world crisis. There was not the slightest occasion for diplomacy or meditation. The facts were uncontroverted. Germany did what she said she intended to do and what President Wilson has informed her he would hold her to a 'strict accountability' for doing. What was needed was not thought or words but action. The time for thought or for words had passed. The thought should have come in before we sent the 'strict accountability' letter. If the President had acted at that time, then, as you say, Germany would have stood before the civilized world, not as a warrior, but as a murderer. I do not think it is an
opportune time to talk. I have expressed myself as clearly as I know how."
His profound dissatisfaction with President Wilson's course and his conviction that what he was saying publicly in criticism of it was unpopular, is revealed in many other letters, one of which was the following to John St. Loe Strachey, London, on May 29, 1915 :
“You are mistaken entirely in believing that the American public will ever turn to me for leadership again, in the sense of acknowledging me to be the leader. Nevertheless, I think that things that I have said will finally influence them and that they will in the end have to acknowledge that my position has been right. Our people are ill-informed and I think they took these statements of mine in bad part. Certainly they were not popular, at the moment, and they are not popular now. But in the end, just as sure as fate, Americans will realize that what I have said was true, and this even though they entirely forget that it was I who said it."
The natural effect of Roosevelt's open opposition to President Wilson's war policy was to restore him at once to the leadership of his party. He became immediately its spokesman on all questions relating to the war and the conduct of the national administration. No other member of the party could speak with such authority, and few had the courage to speak as freely as he did. The result was that his devoted followers began to press him forward as the inevitable candidate of his party in 1916. That he had no sympathy with their efforts, or belief in their success, his letters plainly show. In a letter written on June 3, 1915, he said:
“My feeling is that harm and not good would come if I should again be a candidate. In the (Barnes) libel suit that has just ended, the thing that to me was painfully evident was that at least nine-tenths of the men of light and leading, and very marked majority of the people as a