From December 12th until after Christmas, discussions of peace filled the German newspapers. By January 1st all possibilities of peace had disappeared. The Government and the public realised that the war would go on and that preparations would have to be made at once for the biggest campaign in the history of the world in 1917.
Throughout the peace discussions one thing was evident to all Americans. Opposition to American intervention in any peace discussion was so great that the United States would not be able to take any leading part without being faced by the animosity of a great section of Germany. When it was stated in the press that Joseph O. Grew, the American Charge d’Affaires, had received the German note and transmitted it to his Government, public indignation was so great that the Government had to inform all of the German newspapers to explain that Germany had not asked the United States to make peace; that Germany had in fact not asked any neutrals to make peace but had only handed these neutrals the German note in order to get it officially before the Allies. At this time the defiant attitude of the whole nation was well expressed in an editorial in the Morgen Post saying: “If Germany’s hand is refused her fist will soon be felt with increased force.”
The Conferences at Pless
As early as September, 1916, Ambassador Gerard reported to the State Department that the forces demanding an unrestricted submarine campaign were gaining such strength in Germany that the Government would not be able to maintain its position very long. Gerard saw that not only the political difficulties but the scarcity of food and the anti-American campaign of hate were making such headway that unless peace were made there would be nothing to prevent a rupture with the United States. The latter part of December when Gerard returned from the United States after conferences with President Wilson he began to study the submarine situation.
He saw that only the most desperate resistance on the part of the Chancellor would be able to stem the tide of hate and keep America out of the war. On January 7th the American Chamber of Commerce and Trade in Berlin gave a dinner to Ambassador Gerard and invited the Chancellor, Dr. Helfferich, Dr. Solf, Minister of Foreign Affairs Zimmermann, prominent German bankers and business men, leading editors and all others who a few months before during the Sussex crisis had combined in maintaining friendly relations. At this banquet Gerard made the statement, “As long as such men as Generals von Hindenburg and Ludendorf, as long as Admirals von Capelle, von Holtzendorff and von Mueller headed the Navy Department, and the Chancellor von Bethmann-Hollweg directed the political affairs there would be no trouble with the United States.” Gerard was severely criticised abroad not only for this statement but for a further remark “That