In 1916, the mood in the cabinet room was heated. Secretary of War Theodore Roosevelt was giving forth in the grand manner.
Continues from Mr Hughes Goes To War: Part 1.
Mr Hughes Goes to War: Part 1 by Mike Stone"Mr President,(was there a hint of chagrin in his voice at having to call
another man that?) Is there really anything to discuss? The Germans have been murdering our citizens on the high seas for over a year. Now they have sunk an American ship going about its lawful business [unspoken - and if they hadn't
done, a week before election, you probably wouldn't be sitting here now] They are, to all intents and purposes, waging war against us now. What remains
except to recognise that simple fact?"
Secretary of State Charles Fairbanks responded. "The sinking of the Algonquin may well have been a mistake, as they claim. And anyone who goes through the
middle of a war zone on a belligerant ship has got to accept a certain amount
of risk. If I chose to take my morning constitutional across the Verdun
battlefield, I might not emerge unscathed".
President Hughes let them wrangle for a while, then observed, calmly. "Mr Roosevelt, as you spent the campaign season pointing out [he did not add "and nearly cost me the election with your sabre-rattling"] the previous
administration's neglect of national defence has left this country with a
negligible army. If I were to declare a war (which Congress isn't yet ready to
do anyway) without any means of fighting it, I should make this country a
laughing-stock. My own son is at a Citizen's Training Camp as we speak, but he isn't going anywhere near Flanders until both he and those beside him are
properly trained and armed. Which isn't the case right now. If you seriously
want me to fight, concentrate on giving me the wherewithal to do so".
And so it was. The Presdent's request for a massive expansion of the US Army went to Congress. It ran into opposition, extending in the Senate to an attempted filibuster, but anger at the Algonquin sinking helped to see it through. By next March, the US would have at least the beginnings of a serious military force.
Thread continues in Mr Hughes Goes To War: Part 2.