tv Americas Entry into World War I CSPAN January 23, 2016 10:45am-12:01pm EST
from 1914-1917 under the leadership of president woodrow wilson, the united states remained neutral as the first world war escalated in europe. up next, we discuss the events and politics behind america's entry into world war i and it's mixed support from the american people. she is the author of the forthcoming book. she spoke at the library of congress where in the 15, she served as the chair of american law and governance. as is about one hour, 10 minutes. >> today's lecture is titled "bullet in the chamber: the politics of catastrophe and the declaration of world war i." our speaker is professor mary dudziak. now complaining her tenure in american law and governance. the professor's research has
focused on american war politics and how the american people experience war in the 20th century. her research attempts to get to the root of contemporary phenomenon, the disengagement of the u.s. congress and the american people from war in the 21st century. the research is informing her forthcoming book "going to war: an american history." you may have seen "the new york times" article that discusses the key question at the heart of her research. today, she will speak about how america was mobilized for world war i by catastrophes of sunken ships and how catastrophes can mobilize americans to engage in distant conflicts. that create physical and emotional distance from death
and dying. she is professor of law and director of the project of war and security at emory university. prior to her position at emory, professor of law and political science at the university of southern california. she has also taught at duke, harvard, university of maryland, and university of iowa. she is an expert in constitutional law, legal history, diplomatic history, and civil rights history. -- books include overtime, wartime, exploding american dreams, and cold war/civil rights. she received her phd from yale university.
her jd from yale law school and her a.b. in sociology from university of california berkeley. most recently, she has been the chair of the american law and governance here. please join me in welcoming mary dudziak. [applause] dr. dudziak: thank you for that very kind introduction. thank you all. i am so grateful you took time on such a beautiful afternoon to think about war with me. [laughter] i have many thank you's, which i will try to do more quickly than is appropriate. i want to recognize a couple of really wonderful and important people here today in terms of the future of legal history. the director of the history
office of the federal judicial system clara altman is here. ,and also the historian of the , state department, stephen randolph, and the state department historian's office has been pivotal in making foreign relations history open and accessible so that all of us can do our research and the office has thrived under his leadership and his wonderful staff is just a treasure. thank you to the national history center for cosponsoring. and dean kennedy. this is a work in progress. if you see any ragged edges and you want to talk to me, that would be great. i have many images in the powerpoint and especially for viewers at home, i found virtually everything on the library of congress website.
a couple of the images are national archives. which i was able to find online as well. i really encourage you to go to the library of congress website, search the catalog, many things you can find you can use without coming to this amazing and wonderful building, which you should come to anyway. i thought i would say my thank you's to people who have helped with my work by doing credits at the beginning of the lecture. i am sure there are people i have left out, but so many people at the library and also at the national archives have been really pivotal. one thing you won't see if a lot -- is a lot of discussion about pacifism.
especially, like jeanette rankin, who are so pivotal in this particular era. i wanted to do a lecture on her. my topic today is on the same chapter but they did not fit in a lecture unless i did a strategy speaking on world war i , speaking for four hours. [laughter] i don't think you will stick around that long. on a rainy evening, april 2, 1917, a somber woodrow wilson arrived at the capitol to call upon congress to declare war on germany. he entered the house chamber where senators, congress members, supreme court justices, and others knew his purpose, although the words had been crafted by wilson the day before on his typewriter and shared with almost no one.
gathered in the chamber with a -- was a small group of old soldiers, the congress called into session included members of a generation that had seen their own country at the battlefield. 15 members of the 65th congress had fought in the civil war. others were children of the civil war, like the president himself. wilson's chief antagonist in the senate grew up playing soldier with other children. these lawmakers brought civil war memories into their political identities and their understanding of war. senator nelson of minnesota, a civil war veteran, was wounded in the battle and taken prisoner. he carried with him the memory of a severely wounded comrade. his arms separated into three pieces, left to die by wilson's captors.
the civil war had more than abstract presence in the house chamber that night. the senator from west virginia, a union veteran, was plagued by his civil war injuries. he was absent because of them. still lodged in nelson's thigh in 1917 was a confederate bullet. that had injured him. this is the first bullet in the chamber, the bodily presence in congress in 1917 of the legacy of war. just a year before the great war began, president wilson led the entire nation in remembering the civil war in the battle of gettysburg. at the 50th anniversary in he 1913. found hope on that battlefield. the day of our country's life has been broadened into mourning.
he said. found one another again as brothers and comrades in arms and it is no longer. wilson, like many others, reimagined the civil war, turning the battle over racial equality into the forgotten on -- into the quarrel forgotten on the stacks of jim crow america. this reimagining of the war was not wilson's alone, but shared by many veterans. including nelson would dress in union blue. senator arm in arm with john hollis bankhead, the last confederate veteran to serve in the senate dressed in gray, leading congress members on a march later in the year. message attimistic gettysburg was delivered before a crowd assembled on a pristine
field. it was so different for abraham lincoln, whose gettysburg address in 1863, an unfinished cemetery for more than 12,000 soldiers. still in the process of being properly reburied. the scene was macabre, covered by makeshift graves. body parts protruded, a nightmarish scene, the horror of fighting and its aftermath. wilson could imagine the war in his uplifting way in part because the dead had long been buried. the bones could no longer be seen. gettysburg had become a shrine and a necropolis. space of the dead.
spaces of the dead, like cemeteries, do cultural work for the living. gettysburg was such a place from the beginning of its memorialization. as lincoln's address dedicated the living to carry out the principles that soldiers had fought and died for. for wilson, gettysburg was a site where human remains were reimagined to have reconciled a nation, not seen was what political divisions had done to the bodies. through warfare. if the dead do cultural work for the living, they must also do political work. this provides an important point
of departure for understanding the political work of the dead in later years. i should say i never planned to write about world war i, but thinking about the implications for a time when the battleground was elsewhere. it caused me to rethink my project, rollback the timeline, and rethink the entire 20th century. during the civil war, the experience had deep impacts on civil war americans. intimacy with death and dying which transformed the united states, creating a veritable republic of suffering. you can think of the republic being constituted in relation to this experience of death, dying, and suffering. the history of american war
since the civil war, i would argue, has been in part a history of losing this connection with the dead. americans continue to kill and die in war, but the dying happened elsewhere. civilians were maimed and perished, but fewer of them were americans. it eventually became a country that could go to war in relative comfort. the loss of a direct connection between american civilians and the experience of violence is thought of a post vietnam story with the demise of the draft. leading to our contemporary military/civilian divide and this data is about war participation and you can see this great spike in world war ii and the trails off and picks up in vietnam and continues to drop down. the most fundamental shift began much earlier than vietnam and
requires the rethinking of the most iconic american wars. world war i is a pivotal importance to this history, history of a growing distance between equality in the battlefield. the country get behind a war that was happening somewhere else? how did a groundswell developed that would lead american soldiers to the trenchers of europe -- there are number of factors that matter to the entry into world war i but one thing is crucial. bodies in the water. and the stories told about them. dead american civilians in the atlantic ocean and their appearance in the crass politics -- in the press, politics, and propaganda. in the vast literature, world war i provokes not that much interest.
after all, when it came to entering war politics seem to work the way it should. the president asked for a war declaration, congress provided one. what's the focus of the scholarship is what happens afterwards, especially the violation of civil liberties. but unlike the spanish-american war, world war i did not encompass territories the u.s. would lay claim to. when war broke out, americans savored their distance from the conflict. i thank heaven for the atlantic ocean, wrote the u.s. ambassador to the united kingdom. and president wilson reassured the press and the country that the country would stay out. the united states has never attempted to intervene in european affairs, he said. the conflict was remote and for most americans an abstraction. british leaders noticed this.
the british ambassador to the u.s. complaint that americans thought the war was a bore an immensely interesting spectacle provided for their entertainment. the british work to overcome this. the target of their propaganda was neutral nations. this means that the information americans had about war would sometimes be exaggerated in the hope that the u.s. would join the war on the side of england. but straightforward reporting sometimes broke through american indifference. americans were outraged in may, 1915, when a german submarine sunk the luis attaining a -- the lusitannia. but americans remained reluctant to join the conflict and a year and a half later in the 1916 election, the democratic party slogan -- "he kept us out of
war" -- helped wilson prevail in a close election. americans understood the way deaths of american travelers affected the public and some argued that americans should stay home and deaths on ships would not drag us into war. no single citizen should be allowed to run the risk of dredging this nation in blood. congress members propose to ban passports to americans for travel on ships and sailing on ships carrying contraband but these things did not pass. in an article that probably got more play than anything historians have ever written, carlton hayes wrote an essay in early 1917, um, and his proposal then gets picked up later. i will tell you about the armed ship bill that wilson took up. but he says along the way, what purpose would be served by joining this conflict
full-fledged? we shall be additional targets for german for funerals -- german torpedoes. we shall be sacrificing thousands of lives to avenge hundreds. others are strongly believed in american neutral rights, including the right to travel on the ocean and to sell goods to belligerence. former president theodore roosevelt thought it was a matter of national honor. he was infuriated by wilson's reluctance to fight. and he wrote that dante has reserved a special place in infamy in the inferno for those base angels neither side with evil or with good. wilson was the prime candidate -- the internal suspension between heaven and hell where
cowardly creatures went naked and were stung by wasps. this is a former president saying this about a sitting president. this would happen -- it is partly teddy roosevelt, of course -- but it also revealed the depth of passion and division over american involvement in world war i. in late january 1917, robert lansing wrote "sooner or later, the die will be cast and we will be at war with germany." he was a supporter of going to war. "we must nevertheless wait patiently until the germans do something which will arouse general indignation and make all americans alive to the peril of german success in war."
lansing favored intervention by daniel smith writes he felt little could be done effectively until the germans submarines sank more vessels bearing more civilians thus providing a moral and emotional stimulus. decide on war and then wait for a catastrophe that will mobilize the american people. this pattern would be repeated over and over again in later wars in the 20th century. not every war but this is a pattern that happened over and over again. this is what i mean by politics of catastrophe. in a distant war, catastrophe is needed for mobilization. um, one thing that made world war i different than vietnam was the importance of catastrophe to the president's decision to go to war. as smith put, wilson was so torn over american intervention that the president also required a submarine issue, more deaths in the water. in order to agree to take the nation to war.
and so, on february 17, 1917, two americans set off on a fateful journey. their plan was to sail from new york city to liverpool and from there to join the rest of their family living in london. instead, their journey would take them into the heart of american war politics in the weeks of turmoil leading up to american entry into world war i. mary hoye was said to a slandered, gray-haired and refined woman. elizabeth hoye, her daughter, was slight but extremely vivacious. it was said and devoted to her mother. the family was prominent in society circles in chicago. um, they intended to join mary's son austin who worked in the london office of a chicago company. they traveled on the british
liner laconia along with 300 passengers and crew. the date of their voyage reveals its danger. only 17 days earlier, germany announced it submarines had attacked without warnings the ships of neutral nations as well as belligerence, including vessels of the united states if they sailed into waters around the british isles. woodrow wilson responded by severing diplomatic relations with germany, but this did not mean war, at least not yet. wilson warned that if there were actual overt acts against american ships or resulting in the deaths of americans, he would ask congress for authority to use any means that may be necessary to protect americans at sea.
wilson, the press, global leaders and the american public then waited for the act, but remained unclear exactly what kind of response wilson had in mind. by the middle of february, they had been over 100 ships as many different nations torpedo and s unk. the first american killed was richard wallace of baltimore. richard wallace of baltimore, and african-american merchant seamen on a british ship which sank ver quickly after a u-boat torpedoed it. germany. sank an american ship the same day but submarine captain make sure everyone was evacuated safely. on february 7, 41 died on another british ship but none of them were americans. there was speculation that another african-american seamen
was killed when the british ship went down on february 10, but the press fades out on that one. um, an american missionary in china, robert hayden, was killed when a french steamer was torpedoed on february 17. this ship was a troop transport. the decision was made that this was not an overt act. there was some bio info about him. there was never any real bio info about the merchant seamen of any race. also on february 17, an american ship was torpedoed on its way to
sicily with no cavities. but still, all of the newspapers in rome asked whether this was the overt act wilson had spoken of. rappaport writes, "each instant increased british hopes. any one of them could have served as the overt act." the country was deeply divided. and so, unfortunately, was woodrow wilson himself. in the aftermath of the german announcement of unrestricted submarine warfare, wilson was depressed and felt as if the world had suddenly reversed itself and he was off balance. it is impossible to read his correspondence during the february and march 1917 without feeling the darkness that enveloped him. " i don't know what will come of us. my thoughts is under siege." his anguish is apparent but it is also important to remember that wilson himself laid the
path to his own moment of torture. with my admire the bravery or scorn the foolishness of americans who chose to sail into a war zone, sometimes on belligerent ships with contraband but it was wilson who elevated the importance of their choices to a fate of a nation was at stake in their perilous ocean journeys. and so, although it was not yet apparent, all the world's eyes were on our travelers as they headed for an ocean war zone on a ship of germany's enemy britain with a gun at the stern and had munitions in its hold. now, this might be a risky travel choice was not lost on mary hoy's son who wired his mother, begging her not to sail, not once but five times. she was willing to risk it, mrs. hoy wired back you might wonder why anyone would take a trip. but even at this point in the war, in feathery, 1917, german
u-boat did not -- in february, 1917, german u-boat's not have complete control. ships were torpedoed. but most ships got through. the hyo hoys -- the hoys a decent chance of getting to london. it was tom coffee, and african-american merchant sailor, works with segregated on ocean liners and african-american merchant sailors were often stewards for white passengers where they worked as firemen below deck. i'm almost positive that coffee was in that very difficult work. the laconia's voyage went well.
by the evening of february 25, the ship was 150 miles off the southern coast of ireland. it was a calm evening with little breeze. and stars could be seen through the overcast sky. suddenly, passengers felt the ship shake. a german u-boat had torpedoed the ship without warning. passengers and crew hurried for the lifeboat as the laconia began to list. before the evacuation was complete, the u-boat torpedoed the ship again and in 16 minutes it was below water. mary and elizabeth hoy made it
into life point number 8, along with 20 others. as the boat was lowered into the ocean, the mechanism jammed and the boat scraped the side of the ship and drop suddenly. some of the boards sprung open. the life boat did not sink but the passengers had to sit in icy water as high as their stomachs. the hoys were petite, which is probably why they stood in the boat. even so, the water came up to their hips. they spoke to each other from time to time, another passenger remembered, but they seemed confused. then between one and 2:00 in the morning, mary hoy quietly slumped over. she was dead of exposure. elizabeth tried to wake her mother, before succumbing herself. tom coffee, the crew member, was also in lifeboat number 8.
he died after the hoys. his body and the bodies of of others was thrown into the water. the remains of the hoys were kept on board until daylight. but of course it was keeping the boat lower in the water. but they were finally put into the ocean. the survivors were finally rescued at 6:45 in the morning. news of the sinking dominated the american press with front page huge headlines. in "the new york times" was a tearful statement of mary hoy's son. "wasn't this the overt act?" he felt he had the right to ask president wilson, what is america going to do? according to the story, hoy wanted vengeance.
america should go to war and he would be the first to enlist. let me drop a little footnote. that was the news story. hoy had his own personal statement to wilson said the same thing but was very measured and not emotional. according to one source, the interview done in london was fraudulent. i suspect it was part of the british propaganda effort to encourage american to join the war. i can't tell from the sources i've seen, but that would certainly be consistent with british propaganda effort. i'm heading out to college park
to the archives to try to nail this down before i leave town. but with or without an enhancement, hoy's statement, with an enhancement of hoy's statements, the laconia deaths had an impact. an upset reverberated into the corners of the white house because since lady edith wilson knew the hoys personally and was very upset. and, the wilson administration confirmed the case is clear-cut and the laconia incident was the overt act justifying stronger intervention against germany. president -- finds laconia sinking over act topped "the new york times." banner headlines. wilson use the laconia to built political momentum in favor of some level of response. now, the focus of laconia stories was the death of the hoys with lots of details about their family and their lives in chicago. coffee's death was mentioned in
passing if at all. white bodies, especially white female bodies, drove the coverage in american newspapers. for the press and american politics, whiteness seemed necessary to trigger pathos and passion. not just coffee, other working-class men working on ships mentioned in passing and not getting this sort of emotional coverage. the laconia sinking shows us something important about the politics of catastrophe. what motivates a particular popular sentiment in politics is not a concrete and transparently knowable event, since
catastrophes are far away. the catastrophe is an event that is narrated in a way that motivates people. what shook americans was not any old body in the water. with the death of an african american seamen did not make it onto the agenda as an overt act. the catastrophe in world war i was race and gender. wilson decided on a middle course, not joining the war effort by protecting american ship by arming them. on february 26, he asked congress for a statue. american ships would be allowed to fire on submarines without notice.
and news of the laconia trickle to the chamber as this bill was, um, before the house. um, if allowing private american vessels to shoot german submarines with u.s.-supplied arms and naval personnel sounds like a great way to start a war, this certainly occur to members of congress. this was reinforced by the reaction from other neutral nations and from germany, seeing armed private vessels as vessels of war. concern that the president was seeking to go to war without a declaration was also reinforced by the language of the bill itself. the senate provision provided for authority beyond -- and in the merchant vessels. the president would be empowered to employ others -- and methods as may in his judgment and discretion seem " necessary and adequate."
a nice strong bar there. i think it is fair to say that this is wilson's equivalent of lbj's tonkin gulf resolution on the war in the it now. it was a way to go to war without saying so. if you had not been for a senate filibuster, this is probably what would've happened in world war i. the decoration would have followed afterwards. there is an important difference, however. lyndon johnson wanted a war resolution in order to look strong before the 1964 democratic convention. wilson's in direct path towards war seemed geared towards washing his hands, his own hands of responsibility for a policy,
for what his policy would have accomplished. osrt -- sort of going to war without having to say so. the event, and however, the arms neutrality bill died in the senate as international tension increased, battles and the senate intensified, and time ran out and the final days of the 64th congress. a sympathetic biographer blames wilson for the failure. but wilson blamed what he calls a little group of willful men who held up action that the president and the public thought was urgent. [indiscernible] he insisted that the bill was a means to go to war without a declaration. he was trying to preserve congress's constitutional duty to decide whether to enter a war. the filibusters were called
unpatriotic and -- lafollette has been painted as a self-serving egomaniac. he was a senator. what do we expect? [laughter] it takes something to get into this role. um, and his, the role he played in the senate was his personality, um, sorter played into that and enabled it. but this episode still stands, i think, as an important example of an enduring truth. there is power in congress to impede the march to war. there is extensive power in the president but there is also at least latent power in congress. even for congressional minority. there is always a bullet in the chamber in the metaphoric sense. a bullet that may be fired or made to be withheld. power is exercised by firing and
refusing to fire. the political effort to stay out of war, that this ultimately failed, as a new congress quickly came into session should not erase what the senators accomplished, especially in light of the politics of war today. this episode is refreshing example of congress trying to engage. politically and do something but the power of congress is limited which is why a vigilant public is the most important repository of restraint. wilson then did what many presidents have done after when they have not had war powers legislation from congress. he instead drew on his own presidential power and armed ships without authorization. now, while all of this was happening, the american public also learned of something called the zimmerman telegram, the german foreign secretary proposing an alliance with germany if the u.s., between germany and mexico if the u.s. entered the war. which would involve essentially mexico getting part of texas
back. this inflamed public opinion and contributed to a growing consensus against germany. in spite of german provocation, american entry into the war was not inevitable. john cooper writes "nothing was foreordained about what the response might be. not even in 1917." some have argued that the zimmerman telegram was pivotal in driving the country to war. i would argue that without american bodies in the atlantic ocean, the zimmermann fiasco could have been managed. the a essential element in the politics of war was the bodies. that was the catastrophe that
mobilized american support. wilson's own evolution was agonizing. in early march, he was sick with what was supposed to be a cold. he saw almost no one and was in bed for days. this was a period that a biographer calls wilson's gethsemane, invoking the biblical place where jesus prayed on the night before his death, where jesus said his soul was overwhelmed by sorrow to the point of death. according to luke, his sweat was like drops of blood. wilson's cabinet was frustrated and there was talk of resignation if the president did not act soon. secretary lansing saw this deep reluctance as a weakness. but this was still a war of choice for the united states. the remainder other options. meldon small suggest perhaps a
firm commitment to neutrality that has made the nation appear strong globally in the aftermath of war. if there was going to be a conflict, a limited naval war might have protected american interests. keeping u.s. forces out of the carnage in europe. even if war was the right choice, i have to say there is something appealing about the trouble wilson found himself in. we should hope that our presidents will feel torture and are at times questioning and unsure when the country, after all, is committing itself to war. during this troubled period, wilson decided at last to go to war. as he saw it, german actions had led the united states to the brink. it was not his decision.
it was germany's decision that he was coming to deal with. the form of his war declaration emphasizes that the decision was not his but with germany's. different than the declaration of the spanish-american war. fdr seems to model the world war ii declaration after this. there is a war we have been forced into that we are now joining. um, so, finally, i've left wilson out on the steps of the capitol this whole time. when he entered the house chamber, he was greeted with a large so, wilson finally ascends -- the steps of the capital on the evening of april 2, 1917. when he entered the house chamber, he was greeted with a loud ovation. he read from his text without looking up. the drama was not in his delivery but in the powerful words wilson is remembered for. wilson was a reluctant warrior, but the case made for war was capacious and he turned his it attention to his hope that u.s. presence at the table at the end
of the war would enable enduring peace. if american bodies in the water had given birth to the public's broader war fervor, wilson took that public passion and gave it a broader purpose. the decision for war was not to punish germany, he insisted, but to vindicate the principles of peace and justice in the life of the world -- against selfish and autocratic power. enduring peace could only be maintained through a partnership of democratic nations. the united states had no desire for conquest. he insisted. "the world must be made safe for democracy." he called upon americans to dedicate our lives, our fortunes, everything that we are and everything we have for the day has come when america's privileged to spend her blood and treasure for the principles that gave her birth and
happiness and peace which she has treasured. how did the civil war vets respond to this call for arms? one veteran, senator jon worth of california, actually ended his political career in that 64th congress as one of a group of willful men. who filibustered the arm to ship bill. civil war vets in the congress, especially the senators were underrepresented among those who did not vote at all. some of them had excuses -- illness, they could not get to the senate on time -- but we can't dismiss the possibility that i could not be there was a way of not having to vote on a declaration that had become so popular. only one congressman, isaac sherwood of ohio, voted no. but most supported the war.
like nelson. knowing war or seeing war up close does not necessarily generate passivism. sometimes it generates support. belligerency. the role of the civil war vets went beyond their vote breakdown, however. and what they had to say about war. they informed wilson's own sense of the meaning of the war. on june 5, 1917, at the last confederate veteran in the senate, john bankhead, gave a short and emotional speech in the senate. the shattered remains of the confederate military were in washington, d.c., for a reunion and they were so proud that they would be marching before the president. they were on a mission of peace and love, not of hatred and bloodshed, he said.
he would voice in vibrant tones to all the world that the nation was united. and the presence of confederate veterans gave a child of the civil war, woodrow wilson, an occasion to reflect on the meaning of both conflicts. providence has planned for us what we cannot perceive, he told them, now that they could see themselves as part of the united nations, it had become clear what the great ends which god, in his mysterious providence, watch through our instrumentality. -- wrought through our instrumentality. in essence, wilson told his audience god had had a purpose in their loss of the civil war. so a united nation could fight a new battle for liberty. yet his persistent in imagining that all civil war soldiers north and south shared common ideas of his about liberty and
that liberty would be enabled by this war could only be maintained by fracturing the idea of liberty itself. i began today with a generation that has seen their country is a battlefield. -- as a battlefield. the most important point i want to emphasize is that the structure of american war politics changed when war was no longer on or about, uh, the american mainland. on or about the territory of the american mainland. when the american mainland was not the war zone, the civilian experience of war was more reliant on press and political discourse. now, you may object that post-9/11 has made the country and terrorism has made the country a battlefield once again, but i beg to differ. it is one thing to have the kind
of catastrophes we have recently seen in both san bernardino and colorado springs. but this is just not the same thing as everyday lives in london during the blitz, in paris during the nazi occupation or syria or iraq today. today, across the street from the capital, i wanted to emphasize that latent power that exists in congress, the bullet in the chamber. but congress has no incentive to act if the american people have checked out of the conversation. the most important check on war powers is always an engaged and informed citizenry. i'm sorry to report that american apathy has a long history and it was set in motion when war became distant so that military engagement would no longer generate the civil war experience of a republic of
suffering. thank you. [applause] so, i'm happy to take questions. and i think jason has a microphone. i can't see that well, so -- yes? >> thank you. excellent lecture, really excellent. the stories you wove in there with a history. the question i have is where does wilson's, his idealism, make the world safe for democracy, his believe that he could really help remake the world, he was thinking about kind of all along, right? he was thinking about it earlier and his presidency when he still did not want to enter the war. it seem to like maybe it was opportunism credit seemed like that was one of his motivations for taking advantage of some of
the opportunities that presented themselves by americans being killed. where does that fit in? prof. dudziak: that's, he has a broader menu as you suggest of reasons to go to war. and one of the most important questions is how can the u.s. best be in position to shape the peace? clearly once the decision has been made, that is then giving him his sense of really kind of purpose and optimism. in terms of really just sort of as an historian in terms of , nailing down what mattered exactly how much -- just as an historian, what w mattered when. the editor of the wilson papers and was a thorough biographer. basically he says that during this period when wilson has a
cold -- our coldest not require you to be in bed for days, getting up not until the afternoon. something was going on with him. and from the outside you wonder whether he was really quite depressed. some people speculate other health issues but it is all speculation, i believe. um, during that time, he wasn't seeing anyone but his wife. um, he didn't write in his diary. and there is just not the trail. so, my sense is it's really hard to nail down the particular effect of a set of ideas like his ability to shape the peace without having wilson writing, i finally decided to do this because -- i can only say he was, i mean,
he was really, you read his letters and he was so tortured. and certainly in early february, he already had the idea that he wanted to be in paris. and be part of the debate. but he still, um, waiting for the overt act. he's still not coming forward. so, i guess a long way of saying i do not think you can nail it down precisely. but, uh, it seems to me that probably the best answer is that, in spite of these other reasons, he's not really moved until he feels that he's been pushed so far. and the deaths in the atlantic sort of, they -- it's this sort of sensibility and the whole
country and the world is looking at him and saying, where's the act? -- when will wilson act? then he finally comes around and decides to go to war. i think what that means is whatever else is on the table you don't really get there without the bodies. and one -- and that's really what seems to create this ground swell domestically, which regardless of wilson's ideas, that is what is needed to really push this with so much support through congress, and then put wilson in a position that he has got the power to put through war measures he feels he needs. >> michael is over here. >> great talk, thank you. one quick comment then a question. the juxtaposition of wilson
getting his -- speech in late january. at the same time, the german majority made the decision to resume warfare. and the plates they made to him -- and the pledge they made to him several months before after the sussex was torpedoed -- the pledge they made. i think that was also really important. he had decided now it is time. maybe i can mediate this conflict. a week after he gives that speech, which is an amazing speech, i think of his life, then the germans go back on their pledge. so, i think that week is a key one. the question is, the bodies in the water matter but what do you think that the argument that what kennedy and other people made in some ways from early 1915 on, the u.s. was not neutral. jpmorgan was the banker for the british. the protests about americans
being killed on british ships were much louder than the protests about the british blockade of germany which was killing lots of germans from hunger. yes, the bodies mattered, but the stage was set as soon as the germans decided they had to win the war before the u.s. might get in. that u.s. really was never really that neutral. prof. dudziak: um, yeah. i should say this comes from the biographer of william jennings bryan, which is an essential work for this period. i pretty much want to sort of pick your brain at some point about all of this. i guess -- one, so, well, two things. one is, as you suggest, wilson
is working within a context that is already narrowed, right? so that, because britain was violating american neutral rights but that was not getting the same amount of attention. there's also all of this concern that surfaces after the war about, is the -- is the, um, the reluctance to have more of a restraint on american trade and people traveling across the atlantic tied to the fact that people are making money producing emissions -- munitions and this is about financial interest. from my perspective, there is this interesting moment after the war, where if you think about world war i is the first big distant war. it was not about territory the
u.s. belonging to the u.s. then there is an era i think of as sort of like the debate about the war powers resolution after vietnam. can we roll this back? and so, this debate about why did we get in, part of that. a debate about should there be a war referendum in part of that and jeannette rankin is in the middle of that. and then the committee, and neutrality in the 1930's as part of the peace about how to we take into -- piece about how to we take into account the way financial interest can sort of put us in a position that the deck's stacked? and so you get the dynamic that cold war scholars talk about, and the military complex literature, when you have got politicians whose political careers are tied to financial
interests, who don't want that commerce to be close down. i think it is tremendously important. i don't see wilson having a self-awareness of the way the stage has been limited. um, and so i think -- i mean, early on, he would raise those issues, but once we get to february, 1917, it is just like the walls are closing in on him. so, i do think it is at that point that the bodies in the water matter so much. just one more thing is i'm really motivated by -- drew gilpin faust's ideas about how it matters to american culture to have this relationship with death and war. and that is what civilians are missing in world war i.
it is just these exceptional issues, these travelers in the ocean. i even make an argument in world war ii, because american civilians that see war and know war largely through media and photographs that censored for the purpose of mobilization. so, this issue of the distance between the polity and the benefield, what that drives is how the -- and the battlefield, what that drives is how the american people are engaged or not with war. >> take a question on the side of the room. mary, thank you. i thought you might have rushed a tad to turn the corner to 9/11 and vietnam and the lessons of this for that. i'd like to understand what you think the lessons are.
because what i got, i did not get, which is to say that it seemed as though you -- weren't crediting the 9/11 experience with sufficient connection to the american people. but if i. understood you correctly and i would've thought there was quite a lot, that that's was on american territory. this was killing americans on american territory. and if there were a country that had done that, it would not a been hard to get a declaration of war, although that is a tad out of fashion. it seems like everything -- was there. we came the closest we could. we found the closest thing we could in afghanistan. put iraq aside. make believe we never did that. i wish we could undo that.
afghanistan was widely populist, the right word, as a reaction to an attack on us. one of the divisions and this is what wars america has fought were optional and which ones weren't? i think most people would've said world war i was optional. world war ii wasn't after pearl harbor. before, plausibly, the hegemony in europe was not enough if americans were not dying directly. so, and vietnam is yet another case. i would like you do go to turning the corner and tell us what you think the messages there. prof. dudziak: ok, what it would like to do is prioritize the idea, first of all. there are number of things to say. um, the 9/11 terrorist attacks then end up becoming a war in afghanistan, right?
was 9/11 a war? it was certainly a catastrophe, right? on the day itself, 9/11, i think of it as a moment of tremendous narrative ambiguity and confusion. during the day, people fought and argued with each other about what it was and what it meant. and really no one knew. and everyone i knew was afraid. i was in los angeles. and everyone was afraid. and but there was a debate, you know, is this war or is this terrorism? and one of the things i would like to remind everyone is what happened right afterwards. people around the world took american flags, candles and flowers and went to american embassies around the world and
the cried, and they came together in this global moment of support to the united states. um, now, in new york, people fought with each other in chalk on the sidewalk. bomb them all. let god sort it out. war is not the answer, right? and there was a scholarly debate that lasted for a minute about should this be considered terrorism? is this a big international crime? if you call it a war, that in some ways ennobles the terrorists. is that what they are looking for after all? and one of the costs of the war framework, especially with iraq but it was i think starting to happen, um, before the was the fracturing of this moment of global solidarity.
right? and so, if you can just imagine yourself in a world where what we did is went to our allies and people who had not been allies but were supporters at that moment and said, let's track these people down. and let's, you know, take them to justice. so, there were alternative courses to take after 9/11. once it became a war, there wasn't aerial bombing in los angeles. you know. there was not aerial bombing in new york. and so, the united states is in a position that's highly privileged, right? if we decide to go to war with someone, even if we think we have enough of a provocation within united states, the battlefield is not here. we sometimes seem to make the battlefield here.
but the battlefield is not here. living here is not like living in afghanistan. when the united states was first going to war against al qaeda. so, that puts us in a position that then you have the ongoing conflict without the sort of engagement and the concern that many folks in the military have about a military-civilian divide where the united states decides to go to war that they want someone else to do all the fighting. and you don't have -- if you have more of sort of a common, i do know what it would be, but i think i can explained more what i think has happened then what might have been sort of a policy alternative. but certainly, i don't think that isolated terrorist acts
that happened all over the world and have been happening for a long time, that those acts should be treated in the same way as the sort of, you know, the way that war is experienced when someone invade your territory, takes your family's house as their quarters, and you know, does all the thing the opposition military does when they have occupied your territory. we don't experience that anymore. so, that is what we don't have. and i would argued that that then makes it harder to develop the kind of political engagement that is needed, so we do not have members of congress tripping all over themselves to
not have to vote on to whether to authorize force. um, can you? yes, go ahead. >> [inaudible] is the narrative so complicated? may be san bernardino is built into that bodies in the water. prof. dudziak: um, well, what we can see from 9/11, san bernardino, etc. is the way catastrophe motivates americans paying attention, right? i guess what i am trying to do is roll that back and think about how that has been a feature of needing to ramp up american attention and
engagement when deep war mobilization has been needed. sometimes things breakthrough and people -- like the lusitania. but, uh, there's, the underlying footnotes here i have learned a lot from adam baranski, a political scientist who works on public opinion. and he says the facts of war do not speak for themselves. it is not that war happens and automatically there is a reaction. instead, and i think this is partly because war is far away, war happens and then it is filtered through elite discourse in partisan politics. that is how americans know war. so, that is why we see the emotional headlines in the newspaper. and that is what is sort of wrapping up this drumbeat in early 1917.
so, catastrophe matters. there are different kinds of catastrophes. they don't all have to be framed as war. and i think we want to be aware of the way that sometimes letting the emotionalities aside as opposed to going to the -- microphone immediately and this a war and we are going in. that can create a space for both politics and for critical engagement with what is really in american interests. >> we have to stop at there. please join me in thanking mary dudziak. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2016] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy.
visit ncicap.org] you are watching on american history tv every weekend on c-span three. follow us on twitter from information on our schedule and keep up with the latest history news. >> conservative commentator armstrong williams sat down with civil rights activist julian bond just grant his life and thoughts on leadership. this weekend, with air the interview from the university of virginia's explorations and black leadership project. here is a preview -- father, he arrived for me to make strom thurmond. tobaccothe middle of a he said we are going to see strong thurmond. we got there just the senator leaving.
recognize my father because he had a strong reputation in the county and before he is about to be introduced, i extended my hand. i said i hear you are a racist. [laughter] >> way he say? >> forget about what he said, it's what my father said. we were in public. red heer was seeing worked hard to make this happen. , told my father not to worry about it. at least he is honest and you raise in that way it my father hold off. , he said, i want him to work for you some way. i want my boy to get to know you because i have plans for him and i know you can help.
i was still sitting back there and did not say anything else. i did not want to get on his bad side. the senator said to me you sound like a bright young man when you graduate from high school, if you want to come to washington and interim, come work for me and decide whether i'm a racist or not. >> watch the entire program saturday at 2:00 p.m. eastern here on c-span the american history tv. i was watching the camp and this year and it's more interesting to look at the republicans than the democratic side. that may have something to do interestthere is more in these candidates and their books. the nonfiction, book the washington post discusses books written by the 2016 presidential candidates. >> everyone has interesting stories in their lives in
politicians who are so single-minded in this pursuit of could havedeology particularly interesting ones when they of his memoirs, they are to sanitize. vetted, they are therefore minimum controversy. >> sunday night at 8:00 eastern. during campaign 2016, c-span takes you on the road to the white house as we follow the candidates on c-span, c-span radio and www.c-span.org. >> president franklin roosevelt was one of the driving forces behind the creation of the united nations during world war ii. he died in 1945 before the
original 51 member states signed the u.n. charter. his wife eleanor was a member of the first american delegation to you when and the chair of the one commission on human rights. next come in commemoration of the 70thanniversary of commemof anniversary of the signing of the u.n. charter, they talk about the original vision of franklin roosevelt, his wife, .leanor the franklin d roosevelt presidential library and museum hosted this one hour and 15 minute event. >> i'm going to turn this over to our capable moderator. the united nations correspondent fornational public radio nbc news. she has written a book about the united nations and is an expert who has based her reporting on a deep understanding of how the