Then the word battles between the Allies and the Central Powers began in the United States. While the soldiers fought on the battlefields of Belgium, France, East Prussia and Poland, an equally bitter struggle was carried on in the United States. In Europe the object was to stop the invaders. In America the goal was public opinion.
It was not until several months after the beginning of the war that Sir Edward Grey and Chancellor von Bethmann-Hollweg began to discuss what the two countries had done before the war, to avoid it. The only thing either nation could refer to was the 1912 Conference between Lord Haldane and the Chancellor. This was the only real attempt made by the two leading belligerents to come to an understanding to avoid inevitable bloodshed. Discussions of these conferences were soon hushed up in Europe because of the bitterness of the people against each other. The Hymn of Hate had stirred the German people and the Zeppelin raids were beginning to sow the seeds of determination in the hearts of the British. It was too late to talk about why the war was not prevented. So each set of belligerents had to rely upon the official documents at the beginning of the war to show what was done to avoid it.
These White Books were written to win public opinion. But why were the people suddenly taken into the confidence of their governments? Why had the governments of England, France, Germany and Russia not been so frank before 1914? Why had they all been interested in making the people speculate as to what would come, and how it would come about? Why were all the nations encouraging suspicion? Why did they always question the motives, as well as the acts, of each other? Is it possible that the world progressed faster than the governments and that the governments suddenly realised that public opinion was the biggest factor in the world? Each one knew that a war could not be waged without public support and each one knew that the sympathy of the outside world depended more upon public opinion than upon business or military relations.
How America Was Shocked by the War
Previous to July, 1914, the American people had thought very little about a European war. While the war parties and financiers of Europe had been preparing a long time for the conflict, people over here had been thinking about peace. Americans discussed more of the possibilities of international peace and arbitration than war. Europeans lived through nothing except an expectancy of war. Even the people knew who the enemies might be. The German government, as the announcement of the Post and Telegraph Director shows, knew nine of its possible enemies before war had been declared. So it was but natural, when the first reports reached the United States saying that the greatest powers of Europe were engaged in a death struggle, that people were shocked and horrified. And it was but natural for thousands of them to besiege President Wilson with requests for him to offer his services as a mediator.