Discussing this action of the President in an editorial on “Diplomacy in the Dark,” the New York World said:
“President Wilson’s protest to the British Government is a clear, temperate, courteous assertion of the trade rights of neutral countries in time of war. It represents not only the established policy of the United States but the established policy of Great Britain. It voices the opinion of practically all the American people, and there are few Englishmen, even in time of war, who will take issue with the principles upheld by the President. Yet a serious misunderstanding was risked because it is the habit of diplomacy to operate in the dark.
“Fortunately, President Wilson by making the note public prevented the original misunderstanding from spreading. But the lesson ought not to stop there. Our State Department, as Mr. Wickersham recently pointed out in a letter to the World, has never had a settled policy of publicity in regard to our diplomatic affairs. No Blue Books or White Books are ever issued. What information the country obtains must be pried out of the Department. This has been our diplomatic policy for more than a century, and it is a policy that if continued will some day end disastrously.”
Speaking in Atlanta in 1912, President Wilson stated that this government would never gain another foot of territory by conquest. This dispelled whatever apprehension there was that the United States might seek to annex Mexico. Later, in asking Congress to repeal the Panama Tolls Act of 1912, the President said the good will of Europe was a more valuable asset than commercial advantages gained by discriminatory legislation.
Thus at the outset of President Wilson’s first administration, foreign powers were given to understand that Mr. Wilson believed in the power of public opinion; that he favoured publicity as a means of accomplishing what could not be done by confidential negotiations; that he did not believe in annexation and that he was ready at any time to help end the war.
Before the Blockade
President Wilson’s policy during the first six months of the war was one of impartiality and neutrality. The first diplomatic representative in Washington to question the sincerity of the executive was Dr. Constantine Dumba, the exiled Austro-Hungarian Ambassador, who was sent to the United States because he was not a noble, and, therefore, better able to understand and interpret American ways! He asked me one day whether I thought Wilson was neutral. He said he had been told the President was pro-English. He believed, he said, that everything the President had done so far showed he sympathised with the Entente. While we were talking I recalled what the President’s stenographer, Charles L. Swem, said one day when we were going to New York with the President.
“I am present at every conference the President holds,” he stated. “I take all his dictation. I think he is the most neutral man in America. I have never heard him express an opinion one way or the other, and if he had I would surely know of it.”