Conditions in the present war are different from those in any former wars. For this reason it is not justified to point at the fact that perhaps in former wars Germany furnished belligerents with war material, because in those former cases the question was not whether any war material was to be furnished to the belligerents but merely which one of the competing countries would furnish it. In the present war, with the exception of the United States, all the countries capable of a noteworthy production of war material are either at war themselves or completing their armaments, and have accordingly prohibited the exportation of war material. Therefore the United States of America is the only country in a position to export war material. This fact ought to give a new meaning to the idea of neutrality, independent of the formal law.
Instead of that, and in contradiction with the real spirit of neutrality, an enormous new industry of war materials of every kind is being built up in the United States, inasmuch as not only the existing plants are kept busy and enlarged, but also new ones are continually founded.
The international agreements for the protection of the right of neutrals originate in the necessity of protecting the existing industries of the neutral countries. They were never intended to encourage the creation of entirely new industries in neutral States, as, for instance, the new war industry in the United States, which supplies only one party of the belligerents.
In reality the American industry is supplying only Germany’s enemies. A fact which is in no way modified by the purely theoretical willingness to furnish Germany as well, if it were possible.
If the American people desire to observe true neutrality, they will find means to stop the exclusive exportation of arms to one side, or at least to use this export trade as a means to uphold the legitimate trade with Germany, especially the trade in foodstuffs. This spirit of neutrality should appear the more justified to the United States as it has been maintained toward Mexico.
According to the declaration of a Congressman, made in the House Committee for Foreign Relations Dec. 30, 1914, President Wilson is quoted as having said on Feb. 4, 1914, when the embargo on arms for Mexico was lifted:
“We should stand for genuine neutrality, considering the surrounding facts of the case.” He then held in that case, because Carranza had no ports, while Huerta had them and was able to import these materials, that “it was our duty as a nation to treat them (Carranza and Huerta) upon an equality if we wished to observe the true spirit of neutrality as compared with a mere paper neutrality.”
This conception of “the true spirit of neutrality,” if applied to the present case, would lead to an embargo on arms.
The American Reply
The following note, which contains a vigorous rebuke to the German Ambassador for the freedom of his remarks on the course taken by the United States toward the belligerent powers, was made public at Washington on April 21, 1916. It was then reported that the note was finally drafted by President Wilson himself and written by him on his own typewriter at the White House, although it is signed by Mr. Bryan as Secretary of State: