Abandoning American Neutrality: Woodrow Wilson and the by M. Ryan Floyd (auth.)

By M. Ryan Floyd (auth.)

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Extra info for Abandoning American Neutrality: Woodrow Wilson and the Beginning of the Great War, August 1914–December 1915

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The foreign secretary decided that good relations with the United States outweighed the financial benefits that Berlin might receive. ” Britain wanted to ensure that the ships stayed off their normal trade routes. 55 Lansing forwarded the foreign secretary’s telegram to Wilson and wrote that he found Grey’s argument to be fair—that the British demands were appropriate considering the circumstances. There was, however, no reason, he added, to consent publicly to London’s additional stipulations and risk German protests over a violation of US neutrality; American shipowners 22 ABANDONING AMERICAN NEUTRALITY would avoid trading with Germany simply to avoid the risk of seizure by the British.

Therefore, if a navy could not prevent vessels from breaching the line and reaching enemy ports, the international community should not have to recognize the blockade. Calling attention to the British policy toward foodstuffs bound for Germany, Lansing contended that the United States viewed them as conditional contraband. Britain, therefore, had the responsibility to prove the food was destined for the German government. Any changes to its status, he claimed, would violate American law and precedent set forth by the British themselves.

Additionally, the British government did not want to create problems with the United States, but it refused to accept the Declaration of London in full because the document included restrictions that would hinder the Royal Navy’s ability to conduct economic warfare against Germany. Throughout August and early September, there were hints about the future direction of Anglo-American relations and the eventual constrictions placed on diplomatic discourse. Concerns over the purchase of belligerent ships, initial discussions about the Declaration of London, the treatment of US trade on the seas, the warring states’ apathy toward mediation, and developments on the battlefield all pointed to potential complications between the Allies and the United States.

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