America’s entry into World War I came in April 1917, after more than two and a half years of efforts by President Woodrow Wilson to keep the United States out of the war. In 1917, Germany appeared to have the upper hand in Europe when it decided to resume unrestricted submarine warfare against any vessel approaching British waters. This attempt to starve Britain into surrender was balanced against the almost certain knowledge that it would bring the United States into the war.
This all came to a head when it was revealed that Germany made a secret offer to help Mexico regain territories lost in the Mexican–American War in the Zimmermann Telegram. Publication of that message outraged Americans just as German U-boats began sinking American merchant ships in the North Atlantic.
Wilson asked Congress for “a war to end all wars” that would “make the world safe for democracy“, and Congress voted to declare war on Germany on April 6, 1917.
The April 19, 1917 issue of Frank Leslies Weekly had plenty of news and opinion items about our entry into the war. This short piece, The Plain Truth ran on a page full of other small items expressing cautious support for the war.
The Plain Truth
PREPAREDNESS! – Right to the point is the slogan of Preparedness by Henry B. Joy, who writes us: “Every youth has a right to the life-long benefits, both mental and physical, which would result from universal military training exactly as he has a right to the benefits of a common school education.”
ELECTIONS! – The fact that three pro-German Wisconsin towns in a referendum, recently held, voted overwhelmingly against war has its significance. So does the fact that in the spring election in Michigan for the State Supreme Court and minor offices, the Republican plurality was about 100,000, and that at the St. Louis municipal election, Republican Mayor Henry W. Kiel, and all his associates, running on an American ticket with German support, won a decided victory, Mr. Kiel receiving the largest plurality ever, given a mayoralty candidate in St. Louis. In Chicago the Democrats carried the election by a small majority.
HATE! – A professor at Cornell University makes a timely plea, in the New York Evening Post, to the American people not to preach the unspeakable creed of hate. He says truthfully, “We are not fighting this war for ourselves nor for our own benefit; we are fighting it to save the Germans from themselves. We fight a wrong system of thought and not a wrong system of economics.” The soldier at the front, whether he be friend or foe, is usually a brave man fighting for what he believes to be right. Let us reserve our hatred for those who are responsible for what he does, often against his will. We heartily concur in these words from the New York Tribune:
We have welcomed many millions of Germans to our country. Most of them we have absorbed into our national life and many of them have served our country to its honor and their own credit. We could not if we would escape a responsibility to deal with those fellow citizens justly, fairly and honorably. We shall not make them better Americans by petty persecution, and we shall not prove ourselves truer Americans by such a persecution.
MAKERS! – A reader in Brooklyn, N. Y., and another in Norfolk, Virginia, suggest that the “Men Who Are Making America” series from the pen of Mr. B. C. Forbes, that we are publishing, refers too exclusively to moneymakers. Yet after all, those who are unable to make money never make anything. The carpenter, mason or laborer who does his part of the work in building a house gets pay for it. He is a moneymaker, just as much as the banker who handles securities. And the fact is noticeable in Mr. Forbes’s readable series that in nearly every instance the successful men of whose careers he tells began their money-making when they were in the ranks of labor.
WASTE! – The way the people’s money is wasted is disclosed by a recent incident at New York’s State capital. Mayor Mitchel of New York City was summoned to Albany by the Senate to answer the charge that he had cast a reflection on one of its members. The member was popular and his associates felt that “senatorial courtesy” entitled him to a vindication. The mayor promptly disclosed that there was no reason for an investigation. The whole proceeding proved to be a farce, but it will cost the state, as estimated, about $25,000. The over-burdened tax-payers, of course, will pay it. The episode reflects no credit on a Republican legislature.
Source: Frank Leslies Weekly, April 19, 1917
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