On this page we will look back at life in the city during the war years. Here we will provide the visitor with the stories making the news, what was happening in sports and entertainment, city politics, the social scene and the prominent people at the time. So, check back often for new editions. To share your family or neighborhood stories, please email PhillyWWIyears@gmail.com
TODAY IN PHILADELPHIA – MONDAY, APRIL 2, 1917
At 8:30pm this evening Woodrow Wilson, 28th President of the United States, addressed the Congress assembled to ask for a Declaration of War against Imperial Germany. Below is a summary of the President’s address.
The President began by saying he had called the Congress into extraordinary session to consider a serious choice of policy that he alone did not have the constitutional authority to make. He explained that in February by adopting unrestricted submarine warfare, Germany rejected all restraints of law and humanity. That Germany’s submarines had attacked not just merchant ships but even hospital and relief ships. In doing this Germany had swept aside all scruples of humanity and was engaging in the wanton and wholesale destruction of the lives of men, women and children engaged in innocent, peaceful and legitimate pursuits.
Mr. Wilson asserted that the present form of warfare against commerce is warfare against all mankind. That not just American ships have been sunk and American lives lost, but the ships and lives of other neutral nations. The President said that each nation must decide how to respond. We must decide with the moderation of council and a temperateness of judgment befitting our character and our motives as a nation. He stated “Our motive will not be revenge or the victorious assertion of the physical might of the nation, but only the vindication of right, of human right, of which we are only a single champion …We will not choose the path of submission and suffer the most sacred rights of our nation and our people to be ignored or violated”
The President continued saying he takes this action “with a profound sense of the solemn and even tragical character of the step I am taking and of the grave responsibilities which it involves, but in unhesitating obedience to what I deem my constitutional duty, I advise that the Congress declare the recent course of the Imperial German Government to be in fact nothing less than war against the Government and people of the United States; that it formally accept the status of belligerent which has thus been thrust upon it, and that it take immediate steps not only to put the country in a more thorough state of defense but also to exert all its power and employ all its resources to bring the Government of the German Empire to terms and end the war.”
Mr. Wilson said “We have no quarrel with the German people. We have no feeling towards them but one of sympathy and friendship. It was not upon their impulse that their Government acted in entering this war. It was not with their previous knowledge or approval.” And the President declared “We have no selfish ends to serve. We desire no conquest, no dominion. We seek no indemnities for ourselves, no material compensation for the sacrifices we shall freely make. We are but one of the champions of the rights of mankind. We shall be satisfied when those rights have been made as secure as the faith and the freedom of nations can make them.”
Mr. Wilson concluded saying “It is a fearful thing to lead this great peaceful people into war, into the most terrible and disastrous of all wars, civilization itself seeming to be in the balance. But the right is more precious than peace, and we shall fight for the things which we have always carried nearest our hearts — for democracy, for the right of those who submit to authority to have a voice in their own governments, for the rights and liberties of small nations, for a universal dominion of right by such a concert of free peoples as shall bring peace and safety to all nations and make the world itself at last free. To such a task we can dedicate our lives and our fortunes, everything that we are and everything that we have, with the pride of those who know that the day has come when America is privileged to spend her blood and her might for the principles that gave her birth and happiness and the peace which she has treasured. God helping her, she can do no other.” After Mr. Wilson’s speech the Congress adjourned and will consider the matter tomorrow.
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