My dear Jim,—That card of yours spoke to me so directly and warmly from the heart, that it revived in my memory all the long years of our friendship, and made me feel that the world had been good to me beyond most men, in that it had brought a “few friends and their affection tried.” These are to be trying years—these next four—and it will take courage and rare good sense to keep this old ship on her true path. You have a part and so have I. We take our turn at the wheel. May God give us strength and steadiness!
Please give my greetings to your fine boys, and to all the old group that are still with you, and know that always I hold you in deep affection. Sincerely,
CABINET TALK AND WAR PLANS
Cabinet Meetings—National Council of Defense—Bernstorff—War— Plan for Railroad Consolidation—U-Boat Sinkings Revealed—Alaska
To George W. Lane
Washington, February 9,1917
My dear George,—I am going to write you in confidence some of the talks we have at the Cabinet and you may keep these letters in case I ever wish to remind myself of what transpired. A week ago yesterday, (February 1st), the word came that Germany was to turn “mad dog” again, and sink all ships going within her war zone. This was the question, of course, taken up at the meeting of the Cabinet on February 2nd. The President opened by saying that this notice was an “astounding surprise.” He had received no intimation of such a reversal of policy. Indeed, Zimmermann, the German Minister of Foreign Affairs, had within ten days told Gerard that such a thing was an “impossibility.” At this point Lansing said that he had good reason to believe that Bernstorff had the note for fully ten days before delivering it, and had held it off because of the President’s Peace Message to Congress, which had made it seem inadvisable to deliver it then. In answer to a question as to which side he wished to see win, the President said that he didn’t wish to see either side win,—for both had been equally indifferent to the rights of neutrals—though Germany had been brutal in taking life, and England only in taking property. He would like to see the neutrals unite. I ventured the expression that to ask them to do this would be idle, as they could not afford to join with us if it meant the insistence on their rights to the point of war. He thought we might coordinate the neutral forces, but was persuaded that an effort to do this publicly, as he proposed, would put some of the small powers in a delicate position. We talked the world situation over. I spoke of the likelihood of a German-Russian-Japanese alliance as the natural thing at the end of the war because they all were nearly in the same stage of development. He thought the Russian peasant might save the world this misfortune. The fact that Russia had been, but a short time since, on the verge of an independent peace with Germany was brought out as evidencing the possibility of a break on the Allies’ side. His conclusion was that nothing should be done now,—awaiting the “overt act” by Germany, which would take him to Congress to ask for power.