June 15, 1915

by Richard van Pelt, WWI Correspondent

The day’s headlines from the Capital Journal:

Mosciska, Near Lemberg, Stormed and Captured After Hot Battle
Italians Report Ring Of Steel Pressing Closer Around Goritz

As a World Power Will Use Every Means To Stop War Says President
England Points To Trade Balance and Says U.S. Commerce is Unharmed

Will Do Anything Within National Honor To Keep Friendship of U.S.
Answer To President’s Note Will Not Be Ready For At Least Two Weeks

That the strength of William Jennings Bryan was also his greatest weakness was the subject of an editorial “Why Bryan Has Failed:”

One of the best analyses of the character of Wm. J. Bryan that we have read is that given by the editor of the Medford Daily sun, who admits that Mr. Bryan’s views are in advance of his times, and then discusses his case from that standpoint, as follows:

“The point which so many rabid pro-Bryanites fail to grasp is that this very quality is responsible for the general relief felt at his retirement from an administrative office. It is as embarrassing for a “servant of the people” to be ahead of his times as behind them. His business is to put the popular will into execution, and his inability to reflect this popular will, whether from foresight or hindsight, is equally undesirable.

“William Jennings Bryan, private citizen, enjoys a far grater following today than W.J. Bryan, secretary of state, enjoyed the day before yesterday.

“As a fluent exponent of a higher international morality, as an exhorter for a more exalted plane of peace and amity, Mr. Bryan will be stirring the aspirations and hopes of thousands of people, who viewed with growing concern the administration of a state department, upon theories which have not as yet been accepted in the practical world of affairs.

“In other words, as secretary of state, Mr. Bryan’s peculiar talents were wasted. He was a round peg in a square hole. His role is that of inciter, not doer; of the herald, not the statesman; a constructive imagination rather than an administrative genius, is his forte.

“It was a partial realization of this perhaps that led Mr. Bryan to retire at an opportune moment, so he might “enjoy as private citizen the privilege which the president does not feel at liberty to allow.” Far from having been showered with more abuse than any other American in this generation, Mr. Bryan as a private citizen has had a larger following, has been granted a greater personal influence, than another citizen in his country. It is only when he aspired to or occupied a place for which his abilities were not designed that the better judgment of the American people has been directed toward returning him to the niche where he belongs.”

In a letter to the editor, J. D. Ratliff puzzles over this country’s response to German naval warfare in contrast to how we impose our will on Mexico:

Editor Journal: After German war ships sunk our good ship Frye off our own coast; after they sunk the Falaba, with the loss of one American life; after they torpedoed the Gulflight, an American ship carrying the American flag; after the German Ambassador advised our citizens that it would be dangerous to exercise their right to travel the high seas under conditions hitherto lawful; after sinking the Lusitania with 100 Americans on board – we send a note to Germany begging the privilege to inform the Imperial government that it is thought be many right-feeling, but possibly mistaken men of our country . . . that infelicitous injunctions of cause and effect upon the high seas have eventuated to produce a feeling on the part of some, though possibly not well-founded, that the navy of the Imperial government may have been a little to careless in some instance in respect to the rights of neutrals . . .


How about the Mexicans? they have not sunk any of our ships; have not challenged the right of our citizens to travel in the usual way; have not advised our people that they are about to do an unlawful act. They have been as considerate of American lives as could reasonably be expected under conditions of civil war. Yet we say to them, “If you don’t quit fighting we will go down and make you quit.” Why this difference? Have we any more right in Mexico than we have in Germany?

The Oregon Statesman in an editorial on reported efforts by Germany to explore the possibility of peace, offered the following assessment:

All the allies, having sacrificed much in a war that most of them, at any rate, did not want, would be loath to pause until they reap the fruits of their sacrifices. They are satisfied that their power will wax while Germany’s wanes. They believe that their hour will soon strike, and that if the odds should still be too great other neutrals will join them. They are still willing, apparently, to endure another year or two of war in the hope of compensating themselves at least partially for their expediter of life and treasure, and subduing Germany so completely that when peace comes they need have no more fear of her.

All hints of peace, therefore, from German sources, are likely to fall on deaf ears for some time yet. Everything points to a fiercer struggle than ever.


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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