In 1917, the President kept it short. Really, there wasn't all that much more to say. The Germans had been waging unrestricted U-Boat war for over a month. Several American ships had already been torpedoed, and in at least one case the lifeboats had been destroyed afterwards. Now, they had tried to inveigle Mexico
into war with the US, cheerfully offering her three States of the Union as reward. And their Foreign Minister had brazenly admitted as much to the world's press. "What kind of people do they think we are?".
Continues from Mr Hughes Goes To War: Part 1.
Mr Hughes Goes to War: Part 2 by Mike StoneHughes briefly recounted America's grievances, concluding. "It is no longer a matter of going to war, since for all practical purposes the war is already in progress. Nothing remains save to make formal acknowledgement of what is already the case. I therefore call upon the congress to declare , at once, that a state of war now exists between the United States and the German Empire".
In the event, it wasn't quite "at once". The House complied, but a few isolationists made a last-ditch resistance in the Senate, which didn't concur until March 8. But the time had not been wasted. Even as the Senators argued, soldiers had been assembling at the ports of the east coast, and the first troopship would sail as soon as the war resolution passed. Ironically, it was a German ship, trapped in a US port since 1914, and which Hughes had ordered seized three months before in response to the Algonquin business.
By the end of March, a US regiment was already at the western front Secretary Roosevelt sought to resign form the Cabinet,and raise a regiment of his own to fight in France. The President refused, insisting that he was needed where he was. "Do you think I wouldn't like to be where Charlie is?" He asked; (Charles Evans Hughes, Jr, had been on the "Lafayette", the first troopship to sail from New York) but we old men have our work to do right here". Privately, he had other motives, which he confided to his diary. "I'm not having that man
grandstanding it in France, playing the conquering hero when things go well,
and letting me take the ructions when they don't. If the war takes a bad turn,
I want him as deeply implicated as myself. If he thinks he can undermine me the way he did to poor Bill Taft, he has another think coming".
Roosevelt was far from pleased, but he complied, observing to Senator Lodge
"The country would not understand my resignation at such a time over such an issue". Hughes sugared the pill by arranging for all of Roosevelt's sons to go speedily to France, and promising that Quentin's bride-to-be, Flora Payne
Whitney, would be allowed to travel to Europe for their wedding. TR, meanwhile,
resigned himself to the inevitable, and worked all hours (to the point where
his faily feared for his health) to get the American Army into action. By
Christmas 1917, thanks partly to him and partly to the decisions taken by
Hughes on coming to office, there were six US Divisions in the line. By the end
of February 1918, there would be twelve.
To be continued.