June 12, 1915

by Richard van Pelt, WWI Correspondent

From the front page of the Capital Journal:

OFFICIALS CONSIDER ACUTE CRISIS PASSED
Washington Diplomats Relax In Belief That International Situation Will Soon Be Cleared Up – Peace Rumor Persists But Comment Withheld Until Return of Colonel House From European Capitals With Report

. . . President Wilson has placed the United States squarely before the warring nations of Europe as a mediator. And that Germany’s acceptance of the president’s demand for guarantees of safety of Americans from submarine attacks may open the way to peace was the belief generally expressed in official circles today.

AUSTRO-GERMANS LOSE 40,000 MEN IN DNEISTER FIGHT
Petrograd War Office Claims Von Mackensen Is Thrown Upon Defensive
MOVEMENT ON LEMBERG FROM SGTRYJ IS STOPPED
Thick Fog Causes Lull Along French and German Battle Front At Arras

SUBMARINE TOLL OF LAST 24 HOUS IS 7
Norway Has Lost 24 Vessels Worth $7,500,000 Since War Began

In a long letter to the editor, a Capital Journal reader offers a “German American Voice Regarding the Great War:”

Editor Capital Journal: The undersigned has not forgotten that the Capital Journal . . . printed in its editorials, some time ago, “the best way to stay neutral is to keep your mouth shut.” That is true, but if a half dozen or more boys intentionally picked a fight with two innocent boys and put the blame for the whole scrap onto the two, or even unto one of the two boys and if the majority of those who are looking on either intentionally or unintentionally, would scold the innocent one for starting the fight and would help the guilty ones to down the innocent one, it is not only hard but impossible for a person who still loves righteousness to stay neutral, even if the guilty ones so far are getting the worst of it. It is not the character of the Germans to talk as much as citizens of other nationalities, but when the Germans do say something they usually mean it.

In allegory, the writer, identified only as “A.J.W.” sets out the German defense that war was forced upon it by Russia, France, and Britain. The writer then alleges that envy prompted the war:

The Germans know that this greatest of all wars was forced upon them and that is the reason why they stand together and stand by their kaiser as one man. What then is the real reason for this war? It is contained in only three words and these are “Made in Germany.”

Germany was advancing too fast to suit England and therefore Germany had to be overcome. England was afraid to undertake this task alone and so she made arrangements with other power to help fight Germany. They are at this job now for almost a year and I am sure the allies found out by this time that they are having a bigger job on hand than they expected and the writer of this, with millions of other right thinking people, has very good hope that righteousness will prevail. Germany cannot be crushed and even if she would have to lie down a while, on account of the many that have jumped upon her, she would lie down with honor and soon the German spirit would rise again and create a better and more glorious Germany.

Countering the newspaper and President Wilson’s note to Germany regarding the sinking of the Lusitania, the writer takes the paper to task for writing that “No matter what the cost may be, he (the president) is prepared to emphasize the doctrine of protection for Americans wherever they may go.” and concludes:

But I, for one, would not expect the United States to protect me as one of her citizens if I would travel on any of the belligerent’s vessels, nor would I expect my country to go to war with England or any other country because I went into or near their trenches and were killed. Common sense tells me that it is wise to stay away from there now and those who claim to be smarter than anyone else and risk their lives unnecessarily ought to take the consequences alone.

The writer poses a valid question. At what point does sticking green beans up one’s nose cease to affect the national interest? Equally, the opposite also applies: at what point should the government enforce the values of one element of the citizenry at the expense of or to the detriment of or in opposition of other citizens? The writer’s argument falls apart as close readers of the news would have been aware: Britain entered the war only reluctantly, and at the last moment when Germany invaded Belgium.

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About whclarc

We are devoted to providing information fresh from the Archives, Library and Collections of the Willamette Heritage Center in Salem, Oregon. We specialize in the history of Marion County and the greater Salem area.
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