On previous birthdays of the Emperor and when questions of great moment were debated the civilian ministers of the Kaiser were always invited. But on the Kaiser’s birthday in 1917 only the military leaders were asked. Dr. Helfferich, Minister of Colonies Solf, German bankers and business men as well as German shippers were not consulted. Germany was becoming so desperate that she was willing to defy not only her enemies and neutral countries but her own financiers and business men. Previously, when the submarine issue was debated the Kaiser wanted to know what effect such a warfare would have upon German economic and industrial life. But this time he did not care. He wanted to know the naval and military arguments.
In August, 1914, when the Chancellor and a very small group of people were appealing to His Majesty not to go to war, the Kaiser sided with General von Moltke and Admiral von Tirpitz. During the various submarine crises with the United States it appeared that the Kaiser was changing—that he was willing and ready to side with the forces of democracy in his own country. President Wilson and Ambassador Gerard thought that after the downfall of von Tirpitz and von Falkenhayn the Kaiser would join hands with the reform forces. But in 1917 when the final decision came the Kaiser cast his lot with his generals against the United States and against democracy in Germany. The Chancellor, who had impressed neutral observers as being a real leader of democracy in Germany, sided with the Kaiser. Thus by one stroke the democratic movement which was under way in Germany received a rude slap. The man the people had looked upon as a friend became an enemy.
The Break in Diplomatic Relations
On January 30th the German Government announced its blockade of all Allied coasts and stated that all shipping within these waters, except on special lanes, would be sunk without notice. Germany challenged the whole world to stay off of the ocean. President Wilson broke diplomatic relations immediately and ordered Ambassador Gerard to return home. Gerard called at the Foreign Office for his passports and said that he desired to leave at once. Zimmermann informed him that as soon as the arrangements for a train could be made he could leave. Zimmermann asked the Ambassador to submit a list of persons he desired to accompany him. The Ambassador’s list was submitted the next day. The Foreign Office sent it to the General Staff, but nearly a week passed before Gerard was told he could depart and then he was instructed that the American consuls could not accompany him, but would have to take a special train leaving Munich a week or two later. American correspondents, who expressed a desire to accompany the Ambassador, were refused permission. In the meantime reports arrived that the United States had confiscated the German ships and Count Montgelas,