In 1917, President Woodrow Wilson severed diplomatic relations with Great Britain.
US/UK diplomatic relations severed by Eric LippsFollowing the outbreak of war in Europe in August 1914, pitting Britain, France, Italy, Russia and Japan against Germany, Austria-Hungary and Japan, Britain had instituted a policy of interdicting neutral shipping to the Continent to choke off trade with its foes. This had led to repeated seizures of U.S. merchant vessels on the high seas, actions denounced in steadily stronger terms by the President, Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan, and a number of influential Midwestern newspapers.
The President did have a strong pro-British adviser, Col. Edward M. House, who had declined a Cabinet position but remained so close to Wilson that he was provided White House living quarters. However, in April 1915 House died unexpectedly in a traffic accident. With his influence absent, Wilson gravitated toward an "a plague on both your houses" attitude regarding the European conflict, condemning Germany - especially after the May 7, 1915 sinking of the passenger liner Lusitania - for its policy of unrestricted submarine warfare while growing increasingly hostile to the British as well over their refusal to cease what he considered "piracy" against American shipping.
In his communication to the British ambassador, Sir Cecil Spring-Rice, informing him of the break in relations, Wilson insisted that he did not intend to join Germany's side in the war. "America," he informed Spring-Rice, "has no interest in becoming a combatant in the present conflict. She wishes only to maintain her neutrality unharassed by either side. Your nation's refusal to honor this desire is the cause of the present break". Challenged by the ambassador as to why he has not also severed relations with Germany, Wilson responded, "Be assured, sir, that your German counterpart shall be hearing from me as you have done".
Wilson proved as good as his word. A week later, on Feb. 10, 1917, Wilson severed relations with Imperial Germany as well, citing that country's submarine warfare practices as well as his desire to remain "a genuine neutral in a conflict to which the United States is not, and does not wish to become, a party".
The United States remained neutral until the European war ended in March 1919 in what came to be called the "peace of exhaustion". At that point, the idealistic Wilson saw an opportunity to guarantee a lasting peace through a set of proposals which included a policy of "self-determination" for small nations such as Serbia, whose nationalist aspirations had helped ignite the conflict, and the creation of a "league of nations" to arbitrate among countries. However, his determined non-involvement in the war, popular as it had proven at home, had left him with no leverage in Europe. As a result, his audacious "Fourteen Points" went nowhere. Europe at the dawn of the 1920s would be a darkened version of its 1914 self, with Britain and France enriched at Germany"s expense, Russia in the throes of civil war following its 1917 Bolshevik revolution and a bankrupt Italy teetering on the edge of anarchy, while from across the Atlantic the U.S. played spectator.